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DHS Press Release- Mental Health Counseling for Sandy Victims

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February 16, 2013                                                                                                                            Ellen Lovejoy

Help available for emotional aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

TRENTON – As community meetings are being held throughout the state to give survivors of Hurricane Sandy information about restoring their homes and businesses, the Christie Administration also wants to remind them of help available to restore their mental resiliency.

“Sandy took a toll on more than just buildings, and we want to make sure people also have information about how to heal the damage that goes beyond bricks and mortar,” DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez said. “We want people to be aware of the services available to help them deal with the anxiety and rebuild their emotional strength.”

The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and its Disaster and Terrorism Branch (DTB) continue to provide a variety of services, Velez noted.

Immediately after the hurricane, DTB deployed more than 600 specially certified crisis counselors to areas most heavily impacted areas. Mobile units canvassed those areas, providing people with information and referrals. More than 30,000 people had contact with the counselors in the initial aftermath.

“We know that immediate emotional support after a disaster lessens the chances of more severe long-term psychological problems,” Velez said. “Meeting the need for safe, evidence-based services for emotional stress has become a staple in disaster planning and response.”

DHS also expanded the hours and days of a mental health hotline Р1-888-294-HELP (4357), TTY: 1-888-294-4356 – from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, to 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., seven days a week. The hotline is a part of “New Jersey Hope and Healing,” a joint partnership between DMHAS and the Mental Health Association of New Jersey to address the behavioral health aspect of the storm.

Since then, DTB received a $1.94 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help providers hire 120 more temporary counselors and also has provided a $54,498 grant to the University of Medicine and Dentistry’s United Behavioral Healthcare (UBHC) to provide emergency mobile crisis counseling to survivors of the devastating superstorm. To arrange for therapeutic counseling from clinicians at UBHC, call 1-855-HOPE4U1.

People affected by a disaster and trauma may show signs of irritability, poor concentration, depression, hopelessness, isolation and grief and may experience nightmares and flashbacks, new or worsening health problems and alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse.