PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
November 9, 2012

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd takes part in Roundtable at Jersey Shore University Medical Center to Discuss Response to Hurricane Sandy

Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary toured the Emergency Department at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune yesterday to talk about how federal, state and hospital officials are working to provide services to people impacted by Hurricane Sandy. 

"The storm has passed but as we move towards recovery, there are still hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey in need of assistance," said Commissioner O'Dowd.  "Both the state and federal government have resources that those impacted by Hurricane Sandy can take advantage of to help."

Joining O'Dowd for a roundtable discussion were US HHS for Assistant Secretary Preparedness and Response Dr.  Nicole Lurie; John K. Lloyd, President of Meridian Health;  Christopher Rinn, Assistant Commissioner for Public Health Infrastructure, Laboratory and Emergency Preparedness; and Robert L. Sweeney, D.O., Chair of the Emergency Department.

Photo of Commissioner O'Dowd at Jersey Shore University Medical Center
(From left to right) Nicole Lurie, M.D., M.S.P.H. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Commissioner of Health Mary E. O'Dowd; John K. Lloyd, FACHE, President of Meridian Health and Robert L. Sweeney, D.O., Chair of the Emergency Department, Jersey Shore University Medical Center tour the hospital's Emergency Department prior to a roundtable discussion on Hurricane Sandy.

"We have plenty of doctors available to help people when they are injured," Robert L. Sweeney, D.O., Chair of the Emergency Department, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, "However, as people struggle with loss of power, property damage and displacement, stress can take its toll on anybody."

Lloyd explained that from the start of the storm through November 4th, the Emergency Department at Jersey Shore University Hospital treated over 1,870 patients.  "Over 200 Meridian staff members stayed at the hospital during the storm and worked in 12-hour shifts to ensure the needs of our patients were met.  It was a herculean effort by our team, who were here despite many team members facing very difficult personal circumstances.

The Department of Health opened a hotline November 1 with public health experts who are available to answer questions on mold cleanup food safety, mold and drinking water concerns. The public can reach the hotline either through the state's 2-1-1 system or by calling 1-866-234-0964.  While the 2-1-1 system operates 24/7, the Department call center is open 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 5 pm on weekends.

The New Jersey Department of Human Services' Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services - Disaster and Terrorism Branch is coordinating statewide efforts to help individuals and communities manage the emotional impact of the storm. The Disaster and Terrorism Branch partners with the Mental Health Association in New Jersey to offer assistance through a toll-free Disaster Mental Health Helpline: 1-877-294-HELP (4357). A TTY line is available for persons who are deaf and hearing impaired at 1-877-294-4356. The federal government also has a Disaster Distress website and provides 24/7 crisis counseling and support resources available at 1-800-985-5990 or Text TalkWithUS to 66746. The federal Helpline is staffed by trained counselors from a network of crisis call centers located across the United States, all of whom provide crisis counseling for those who are in emotional distress.

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