Department of Human Services | CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION DEPLOYS CRISIS COUNSELORS TO SEASIDE BOARDWALK FIRE AREA
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TRENTON - The Christie Administration today announced that it is deploying crisis counselors to the Seaside area to provide emotional support in the aftermath of a devastating fire that destroyed dozens of businesses, many of which had just rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy.
 
 
Counseling will be available at the Seaside Heights Community Center at Bay and Hancock Avenues from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday (September 16 and 17), and into the week, if necessary.

“This heartbreaking tragedy comes so closely on the heels of Sandy devastation,” said Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, which oversees the Disaster and Terrorism Branch (DTB) and deploys crisis counselors to impacted areas.  “People still recovering from the stresses caused by Sandy are now experiencing more trauma, and likely will need some emotional support.”

DTB oversees the Disaster Response Crisis Counselors and the New Jersey Hope and Healing Program. There are more than 600 credentialed disaster crisis counselors statewide and an estimated 200 Hope and Healing counselors.

“So many of these residents have just gone through an extended period of anxiety and uncertainly, and, now, the fire. We expect they will need emotional support,” said DTB Director Adrienne Fessler-Belli. “Many business owners already have seen their livelihood threatened and may be facing more losses.”

The DTB receives about $600,000 in state funds, which is supplemented with federal grants. Hope and Healing operates with a $11.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The state contracts with the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Family Services in Atlantic County and Family Services Bureau of Newark to provide Sandy-related crisis counseling.

“Our citizens and business owners in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park have barely been able to come up for air in the last year, first with the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy and now this heartbreaking blow from a fire that destroyed numerous businesses along several blocks of a boardwalk that is part of the fabric of the Jersey Shore,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. “The cooperative effort with the local towns, the county’s Department of Human Services, state agencies including Hope and Healing and the Red Cross to provide crisis counseling to our residents and business owners will surely be welcome and helpful.”

Research shows that anxiety and depression can increase as people experience a prolonged disaster recovery and the return to regular routine is delayed. Symptoms can include: anxiety, a feeling of hopelessness, depression, sadness, inability to concentrate, insomnia, isolation and grief or they may experience nightmares, flashbacks, new or worsening health problems.

“Following two large disasters in this community within 12 months, The American Red Cross wants to let the community know our resources are available for them. One of these resources includes our Disaster Mental Health Unit to help individuals employ their own coping skills and resources to deal with these extremely stressful and tragic circumstances. We are there to help with problem solving, make referrals when necessary, and provide information,” said Dr. Raymond Hanbury, a clinical psychologist who serves as the American Red Cross’ New Jersey State Lead for Disaster Mental Health. “These disasters have affected the lives of this community in South Jersey. When facing such devastation and disruption, one may find themselves in need of emotional support and accurate information to start the road to recovery again. We are there to provide whatever assistance we can offer in order to cope with the challenges they may face during this very trying time.”

Residents have a few resources to access:

For more information about New Jersey Hope and Healing, call 1-877-294-HELP (4357), TTY: 1-877-294-4356.

For the Disaster Mental Health Helpline:  (877) 294-HELP (4357).

For clinical mental health services, a confidential helpline: 1-855-HOPE4U1.

 
 
 
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