RAND and Seven Universities Create Policy Institute for Hurricane-Ravaged States, Appoint Director

For Release

December 21, 2005

The RAND Corporation and seven universities today announced creation of the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute to develop a long-term vision and strategy to help build a better future for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

George Penick—who has been president of the Foundation for the Mid South in Jackson, Miss., since 1990—will become the first director of the new institute in March. He will serve as a part-time consultant until then, as he winds up his service at the Foundation for the Mid South.

The universities working with the institute are:

  • Jackson State University and the University of Southern Mississippi in that state.
  • Tulane University, the University of New Orleans and Xavier University in Louisiana.
  • Tuskegee University and the University of South Alabama in that state.

The founding members expect other institutions to join the effort in the future, and the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute could also expand to cover more states.

“While others have focused on short-term recovery issues that demanded immediate attention in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute will work to find the most effective solutions to the long-term challenges faced by the region,” RAND President and CEO James A. Thomson said.

Thomson said RAND has already committed $1 million raised from donations and funds earned on contracts to support a number of time-sensitive research projects related to hurricane recovery efforts, some of which have been completed. Many of the projects were requested by organizations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

“The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute will benefit the region by providing officials in government, nonprofits and the private sector with the highest quality of analysis to help them not just to rebuild what the hurricanes destroyed, but to build a better and more prosperous future,” Penick said. “Our region's ability to deal with the most challenging public policy issues is strengthened by this new long-term partnership between our universities and RAND.”

Congressman Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said: “The rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, including my home state of Mississippi, requires investment, research, and the involvement of diverse groups from the local communities. It also takes leadership. I support RAND's efforts to create a Gulf States Policy Institute that will partner with local universities and colleges to conduct impartial, scientific research on response and recovery efforts and give independent, evidence-based policy recommendations to decision makers on the ground.”

Tulane University President Scott S. Cowen said: "We welcome the RAND Corporation as a partner in our effort to rebuild a stronger, safer and more vibrant New Orleans. The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute will provide the critical data needed to chart the recovery and renaissance of the Gulf Coast."

University of South Alabama President Gordon Moulton said: "USA faculty have pursued research projects related to public policy matters in instances such as the Alaskan oil spill, hurricane recovery efforts, environmental issues and educational funding. We look forward to working with our colleagues at the other institutions and the RAND Corporation under the new institute."

Julian Allen, associate vice president for research and economic development at the University of Southern Mississippi said: “Though we regret what created the need for such an effort, the University of Southern Mississippi is anxious to step up to the challenge along with RAND and the other university partners to ensure the right policies at the right times will take the impacted communities to a higher level of community life. What a tremendous challenge, but what a tremendous pool of knowledge and research capability to make it happen!”

The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute will seek funding from nonprofit institutions, other donors, government and the private sector to conduct a broad range of studies. It will be the first organization of its kind in the region to conduct a full spectrum of policy research on pressing challenges facing the three states, including problems that existed even before the hurricanes struck.

The institute will provide evidence-based policy guidance to speed regional recovery and to provide a long-term policy roadmap to redevelopment on issues such as:

  • Rebuilding and improving the health care system in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
  • The costs and benefits of different levels of flood control, hurricane protection and wetlands restoration.
  • Options for financing public education in the three states.
  • Ways to build an adequate supply of durable and affordable housing in the region.
  • Actions to improve the performance of public safety agencies during hurricanes and catastrophic incidents.

The institute will be based in the region, with the exact location to be determined. RAND staff located at the institute will work with their research partners in the region's universities, as well as colleagues in other RAND offices.

The Gulf States Policy Institute will be guided by an advisory board, which will include leaders of nonprofit organizations, businesses, universities and philanthropic institutions.

RAND research already completed (urls included for completed reports) or underway dealing with Gulf states recovery issues includes studies that:

  • Estimate population return in New Orleans. The study, for the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, will be published soon. A RAND team of demographers, economists, labor experts and others is collaborating with other organizations on the estimate. The commission's strategic planning for infrastructure, schools, and city services depends to a considerable degree on getting the best possible estimate of the city's future population.
  • Examine ways to develop innovative strategies for planning, financing and building new housing in coastal Mississippi to replace the estimated 50,000 homes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Many of these homes were owned or rented by low-income families. RAND has helped develop a broad and comprehensive set of recommendations for pilot development programs, building code changes, zoning strategies, planning initiatives, finance initiatives and other actions. The study is being prepared for the Mississippi Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal.
  • Work with schools impacted by the hurricanes to help in the long-term mental health recovery of affected students.
  • Examine how being displaced by the hurricanes has affected the achievement of students, as well as efforts to help these students do well in school. The data RAND is collecting can help improve preparation for future disasters in the Gulf and other regions.
  • Outline options for expanding health insurance coverage to uninsured people in Louisiana. The report examines requiring employer health insurance coverage, purchasing pools, and health savings accounts. Expansion of current Medicaid programs is also an option. http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR311/
  • Present options for developing a comprehensive regional health information technology network that will support Louisiana's goals of improving health care quality and access, reducing costs, and making health care data follow patients, no matter where they seek care. http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR313/
  • Examine ways Louisiana and New Orleans can rebuild and improve different aspects of their healthcare systems, and recruit and retain a high quality healthcare workforce. Basic considerations include efficient use of resources, meeting needs of diverse stakeholders, meeting preparedness standards for natural disasters and bioterrorism, and incorporating important trends in care delivery.

RAND is a nonprofit research organization that has used objective research and analysis to seek solutions to some of the world's most challenging problems for nearly 60 years. It is based in Santa Monica, Calif., and has offices in the Washington, D.C. area and Pittsburgh, along with Europe and Qatar.

The Foundation for the Mid South is a regional development foundation serving Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. In its 15 years under Penick's leadership, the foundation has leveraged millions of dollars in private sector and philanthropic funds that have been awarded as grants for innovative, community-based solutions to the region's problems of education, economic development, and families and children.

About RAND

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