Prehospital and Disaster Medicine

Original Research

Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) One Year Following the Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Alabama and Mississippi, 2011

Danielle Buttkea1 c1, Sara Vagia1, Amy Schnalla1, Tesfaye Bayleyegna1, Melissa Morrisona2, Mardi Allena3 and Amy Wolkina1

a1 National Center for Environmental Health, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chamblee, Georgia USA

a2 Career Epidemiology Field Officer (CEFO) Program, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Assigned to the Alabama State Department of Health, Montgomery, Alabama USA

a3 Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Jackson, Mississippi USA


Background On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling unit exploded off the coast of Louisiana, resulting in 11 deaths and the largest marine petroleum release in history. Previous oil spill disasters have been associated with negative mental health outcomes in affected communities. In response to requests from Mississippi and Alabama, potential mental health issues resulting from this event were identified by implementing a novel use of a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) in the months immediately following the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Purpose This assessment was repeated one year later to determine long-term mental health needs and changes.

Methods A two-stage sampling method was used to select households, and a questionnaire including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) questions was administered. Weighted cluster analysis was conducted, and BRFSS questions were compared to the most recent BRFSS reports and the 2010 results.

Results In 2011, 8.8%-15.1% of individuals reported depressive symptoms compared to 15.4%–24.5% of individuals in 2010, with 13.2%-20.3% reporting symptoms consistent with an anxiety disorder compared to 21.4%-31.5% of individuals in 2010. Respondents reporting decreased income following the oil spill were more likely to report mental health symptoms compared to respondents reporting no change in income.

Conclusions Overall, mental health symptoms were higher in the three assessment areas compared to BRFSS reports, but lower than 2010 surveys. These results suggest that mental health services are still needed, particularly in households experiencing decreased income since the oil spill.

D Buttke, S Vagi, A Schnall, T Bayleyegn, M Morrison, M Allen, A Wolkin. Community assessment for public health emergency response (CASPER) one year following the Gulf Coast oil spill: Alabama and Mississippi, 2011. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2012;27(6):1-7.

(Received June 25 2012)

(Accepted July 28 2012)

(Online publication September 25 2012)


  • disaster;
  • health services;
  • mental health;
  • oil spill;
  • petroleum;
  • pollution


c1 Correspondence: Danielle Buttke, DVM, PhD, MPH National Center for Environmental Health Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 4770 Buford Highway NE MS/ F57 Chamblee, GA 30341 USA E-mail