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 2006 Winner

Hurricane Katrina Kiosks

Subject: RxKiosks Installed in MHMRA facilities Throughtout Harris County Texas

Section: A.) Background

The Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County (link to the MHMRA website here )has, because of its forward thinking vision, positioned itself more as a business entity that faces intense competition rather than as a non-profit government agency. This point-of-view pushes all employees and investments to their maximum potential.

MHMRA sought to accomplish three basic goals:

1.) Make their current "clients" aware of all the services that their agency had to offer

2.) Maximize their highly trained personnel

3.) Automate client/patient appointment scheduling

The agency had been developing a highly integrated and informative website, however, the majority of their clientele lack internet access and many also suffer debilitating physical handicaps.

The MHMRA team determined that interactive kiosks placed within their centers would be the best way to accomplish these goals.

Little did the MHMRA staff realize how far its resources would be pushed when it was placed into emergency management / crisis management mode because of Hurricane Katrina.

The Katrina survivors "have experienced a superhuman amount of trauma, and they�re suffering a host of emotional problems," says Carson Easley, RN, MS, director of nursing for the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority (MHMRA) of Texas� Harris County. Her agency has waded through the mental anguish of some of the 225,000 evacuees forced to take refuge in the Lone Star State. Some came directly from the crippled Superdome and were placed into emergency shelters, hospitals, or alternative housing.


"Many truly believed they were sent to the Superdome to die," Easley says. "And with dead bodies piling up around them, their fears were justified. We�re seeing the fallout of so much emotional pain."


Easley describes two phases of trauma the Katrina evacuees are encountering. First, immediately after the hurricane, survivors showed an acute response. Feelings of shock, anger, and frustration are common as the evacuees try to assess their losses and search for loved ones. Their focus becomes survival, finding food, shelter, and clothing.

Perhaps a third of the people hardest hit by Katrina could develop posttraumatic stress disorder, research suggests. In the aftermath of 1992�s Hurricane Andrew, one study found, 36% of South Florida subjects highly exposed to the disaster met criteria for new-onset PTSD six months after the storm, while 30% suffered major depression. In addition, more than half of the sample had significant psychiatric symptoms that lasted longer than six months.

The installation of the kiosks within the centers proved to be an integral part of MHMRA�s emergency management efforts. Many of the personel were called offsite to assist refugees in the emergency shelters and many refugees were taken to MHMRA clinic facilities to better deal with their needs.

The kiosks have accomplished their original mission goals and an invaluable resource during a catastrophic crisis.

The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder lists these factors as helping promote mental health in the wake of disaster:

The flexibility of the rugged and lightweight Ezscreen Rx190 kiosks installed, enabled MHMRA personnel to place the units exactly where they were needed during the National Emergency.

Our kiosks assisted the overwhelming numbers of Katrina survivors find answers to many important questions about MHMRA�s services as well as a multitude of City, County and State services that were so important to the refugees� survival.

Section: B.) Design and Implementation

Harris County is a very large and highly populated area

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 3,400,578 people, 1,205,516 households, and 834,217 families residing in the county. The population density is 759/km� (1,967/mi�). There are 1,298,130 housing units at an average density of 290/km� (751/mi�). The racial makeup of the county is 58.73% White, 18.49% Black or African American, 0.45% Native American, 5.14% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 14.18% from other races, and 2.96% from two or more races. 32.93% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The many locations and diversity of the architecture where MHMRA�s clinics are located reflects this. The kiosk installation needed to address the widespread installation and varying requirements from clinic to clinic.

The solution was to utilize our lightweight all-in-one touchscreen PC system with wireless internet access. The PCs were wall-mounted on easy to install slide on wall mounts with security fasteners. The two part mounts allow MHMRA personnel to locate the wall-mount half of the fastening system in many locations where the kiosks might be used. Using the specialty screwdrivers supplied, in-house personnel can simply un-do two screws, unplug the power cord and slide the kiosk off the wall. The other half of the mount remains on the kiosk, allowing it to be slid-on in a different location, quickly, easily and without special training.

Just as important as portability and ease of installation were, the kiosks needed to provide a media-rich experience that would engage the user. The Ezscreen Rx190 "Aero Edition" all-in-one PCs (click here for link to more information on the Rx190) web page have super-bright high resolution 19" LCD displays and Ezscreen 5-wire resistive touch panels.

To maximize throughput, the units have on-board Intel� 2.8GHz P4 processors, 512Mb RAM, 80Gb Hard Disk Drives, DVD-CDRW Drives and nVidia� 128Mb video cards.

To complete the effectiveness of MHMRA�s rich website, we incorporated built-in weather-proof carbon-fiber amplified speakers.

The units also had to be rugged and secure. To accomplish this in a lightweight form factor, we incorporated our NASA build-out experience. The entire structure of these modular units is constructed of T6 aircraft aluminum.

"The fit and finish is beautiful and incredible. I have never seen anything like this�Wow!"

-Bob Brownstein, MHMRA IT Director

The housing is hinged to the backplane and a keyed lock (with matched keys) allows administrator access to all of the kiosk hardware and drives within while securing the components away from user access.

We accomplished this by laser cutting all the custom parts and using our exclusive welding process to create nearly invisible seams throughout the thin-gauge and hardened aluminum housing assembly. The result is worthy of the finest spacecraft, ultra-lightweight and very robust.

The locations also had environmental concerns. Many may be lacking air-conditioning or placed in sunny areas. This type of installation can wreak havoc for many all-in-one PCs, even violating their warranty terms, but we addressed this through the utilization of our patent-pending heat dissipation technology.

During the hardware selection process for MHMRA, units were acquired from many different manufacturers and tested for throughput and performance. No other unit came close to the Rx190 in terms of cool operational temperatures. What�s more, the unit also proved to be the quietest and fastest computer of all those tested.

The entire aluminum unit structure acts in concert, creating a large passive heat sink. Venting is accomplished in a stealthy way through the use of only one super-quiet housing fan which gains its high-volume, low speed ambient air through the stainless steel filtering grills of the speaker openings!

Long term on-site testing began in January 2004 and was completed in March 2005. In the end, only one unit had accomplished all of the program�s hardware goals, the Ezscreen Rx190 Aero Edition was declared the winner.

Funding for this project was provided by a grant with very strict terms. The entire system must be delivered and installed within ninety days after the award was announced. We came through, on schedule with a week to spare.

Section: C.) Marketing

Even though the units had to have a small footprint, MHMRA wanted them to attract the client�s attention. The clinic facilities are often crowded and the management was concerned that the kiosks would suffer from lack of consumer attention.

The consumer base of composed of both children and adults so we designed a unique graphics campaign specifically for the MHMRA. Titled "Stop. Look and Learn", the campaign features colorful primary colors that appealed to the agencies important pediatric clients and a stoplight graphic designed to attract the attention of adults.

The issues of limited budget, user-safety and ease of deployment were accomplished by the use of a large, low-cost, lightweight (less than 3 pounds) and rugged corrugated polycarbonate fold-out and secure 3-D graphics.

Rx190 Aero Edition with the graphics surround installed
(Bob Brownstein, MHMRA IT Director Pictured)

The unique design of these allows MHMRA employees to install the graphics by simply unlocking the kiosk housing and sliding the assembly over the housing. The wings of the graphics support, secure to the wall with four small fasteners and the bezel of the kiosk prevents them from being removed by users.

Elegant and effective,
It is the perfect solution for our needs�.

Dr. Steven Schnee, Executive Director MHMRA Harris County

The graphics were so successful that it was implemented for all forty-one kiosks.

To further promote and finance continuing regular and special crisis duties of the MHMRA, a "Mardi Gras Evening" (link to MHMRA document here) honoring former Senator and County Judge Jon Lindsay.

This special event was designed to celebrate the efforts of the MHMRA during the Hurrican Katrina crisis and was held in the facility�s convention center where the attendees were surrounded by the well-implemented Rx190 kiosks as well as the world�s first 37" all-in-one touch screen PC (link to more information about our Rx370 here) kiosk that we created for the crisis management team.

Rx370: 37" All-In-One Touch Screen PC
Front View

Rx370: 37" All-In-One Touch Screen PC
Rear View

The Rx370 is attached to a fabricated steel housing that holds a printer, wireless keyboard, printer supplies and training materials

The well attended event garnered statewide TV news coverage and included such notable speakers as Houston Mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels.


Texas Senator Jon Lindsay with MHMRA exectutive director Dr. Steven Schnee at
Mardi Gras Fundraiser

Houston Mayor Bill White Courts the MHMRA's volunteer Jesters during the event

Volunteers turn the Rx370 into another fund raising area for the evening

Section D.) Return on Investment

The total budget for this project was only $183,000.00 and did not include the need for graphics design or production. Our company believed in the project so we donated these goods and services in an effort to improve our local community.

We could hardly be more pleased with the successful results. The impeccable timing of this deployment to assist MHMRA in the crisis management effort on behalf of the Katrina rufugees was simply amazing�

-Steve Kroll, President Ezscreen Touch Screen Systems

Many of the "shell-shocked" survivors of Katrina found some solace in the internet resources that our kiosks have provided. We know that the ongoing kiosk-improved efficiency of the capable professionals at MHMRA has averted more "personal" and "family" level disasters.

This is particularly important when you have the fate of thousands of individuals, who are effectively on "suicide watch", within your custody and care.

One cannot treat simply the physical body without the considering the mind. All too often these days, the individual�s perceived quality of life lies in your ability to serve them effectively. The kiosks are not only an internet access resource, they are the "bedside manner" of the agency�s staff reaching out to help the millions that they serve every day of the week.

It is not ethical to place a dollar-cost on the value of human dignity and life. It is priceless.

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