N.J. mental health providers will expand post-Sandy services, thanks to grant

     The aftermath of Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J. (Mike Groll/AP Photo)

    The aftermath of Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J. (Mike Groll/AP Photo)

    Many New Jersey residents will be coping with the aftermath of super storm Sandy for years — and that stress, anxiety and frustration can take a toll on emotional health.

    A $700,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, awarded this week, will allow the Mental Health Association in New Jersey to expand services.

    Part of the grant will be used to hire and train “peer counselors,” said Carolyn Beauchamp, director of the association. For example, to reach out to seniors in need, they will train other seniors.

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    “They will go door-to door if they have to, they will go any place that seniors are congregating,” she explained.

    “They will offer, first of all, to support them; to hear what their stories are; what they have experienced; to make a quick assessment about whether they need ongoing counseling or a referral someplace,” Beauchamp said. “And we will be providing that service.”

    Beauchamp says grant money will also go toward  “mental health first aid” where community members are trained to recognize signs of mental health issues and how to help someone who might be struggling.

    For example, a mail carrier told Beauchamp’s staff that he’d observed something on his daily route. A woman who usually always came out to pick up her mail right away hadn’t collected her mail in three days, and the carrier was concerned. He didn’t know what to say, or what to do.

    Beauchamp says the planned training sessions will discuss how to reach out, and how to connect others to appropriate services.

    John Lumpkin, director of the Health Care Group of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,  says in his experience, mental health problems begin arising within six to 12 months after a disaster, so there’s a need for continued funding at this time — nearly nine months after Sandy struck.

    Part of the grant will also be used to investigate how mental health providers can deal with any future disaster.

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