Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano today announced that residents impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy will soon have access to free mental health and crisis counseling services to deal with stress and anxiety in the aftermath of the storm.
The program, dubbed Project Hope, will be administered by the New York State Office of Mental Health Services, in conjunction with the County’s mental health agency, for a minimum of six weeks – and a possible extension to nine months.
Funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the program will be available in each of the counties impacted by Hurricane Sandy and is similar to programs established after September 11th and Hurricanes Irene and Lee. Hurricane Sandy impacted more residents in Nassau than in any other County.
“The devastation of Hurricane Sandy will be felt by many residents long after the debris is cleared and power restored to our neighborhoods. This program will be available to those who may need help in dealing with the stress and trauma of Hurricane Sandy,” said County Executive Mangano.
Nassau County Mental Health provider agencies will receive up to $1.8 million dollars, as part of the $8 million grant allotted under the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, which will be used to hire about 200 crisis counselors trained to help residents cope in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Dr. James Dolan, director of the Nassau County Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities Services (the Office), noted that “the enormity of the personal challenges and material loss experienced has overwhelmed the usual coping capacities of most people.”
The Federal/State crisis-counseling program consists of short-term interventions with individuals and groups experiencing psychologically adverse reactions to large-scale disasters. The goals will be to:
• Assist disaster survivors in understanding their current situation and reactions.
• Mitigate additional stress, assisting survivors in reviewing their options.
• Promote the use of or development of coping strategies.
• Provide emotional support.
• Encourage links with other individuals and agencies who may help survivors recover to their pre-disaster level of functioning.
Crisis counselors help survivors identify, label, and express emotions; adjust to the disaster and losses; make decisions and take action.
The program encourages the use of trained paraprofessional staff - preferably people who live and work in the communities they will serve. Crisis counselors also typically reflect the cultural makeup of the community served.
Counselors from Nassau’s mental health office have been providing “Psychological First Aid” to Sandy evacuees and those who sheltered in place since the day Hurricane Sandy hit our area. Staff was also assigned to local firehouses, police precincts and schools in the hardest hit areas. There, crisis counseling has been provided to first responders and people sheltering in place.
Lisa Murphy, Commissioner of Nassau County’s Department of Human Services, said “We are prepared to help with, and address, any of our resident’s needs. Through the sincerity and effectiveness of our efforts, together, I believe we can achieve a full recovery.”
If you are experiencing adverse reactions to the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, or are feeling depressed, overly anxious, helpless or hopeless, please call: Long Island Crisis Center: 516-679-1111