FEMA grant allows crisis counseling to continue for N.J. storm victims

    A program that provides crisis counseling to New Jersey residents struggling since Superstorm Sandy now has the money it needs to cover expanded services through the end of the month.

    Nearly $2 million in FEMA grant money will fund crisis counseling for survivors of the storm through a program called New Jersey Hope and Healing.

    The program relies on a team of hundreds of counselors, says Adreinne Fessler-Belli, director of the Disaster and Terrorism Branch of the state’s Department of Human Services.

    They don’t treat trauma victims, she explains. Instead, they serve as a liaison to mental health services by providing information and a helpline for those in distress.

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    “Often times during a disaster, one of the typical feelings is that you feel out of control and you feel helpless or hopeless because it seems so overwhelming,” Fessler-Belli said. “What this support program does it try to help people gain some of this control back.”

    Separate from the FEMA grant, the helpline is expanding to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The helpline number is 877-294-4357.

    Fessler-Belli says ever since Hurricane Floyd and 9/11, the state has had programs in place just like this one.

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