In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, pictures of devastation have shown the physical damage of the storm. But there is also an emotional impact on residents that can’t always be seen. Director of the Disaster and Terrorism Branch of the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services Adrienne Fessler Belli said her branch of the Department of Human Services focuses on psychological responses to disaster. After the hurricane, she said the need is great.
“We have over 100 crisis counselors as part of our program that are in the community and in shelters. We intend to have many more as the days go on,” Fessler Belli said. “It is a challenge but one that we want to take and to help those that are really impacted by this storm.”
Fessler Belli said it’s difficult to measure how many people are in need of services, but her agency is providing an outreach program to help provide emotional support. “During a disaster, many people are upset, uncertain, anxious, frustrated and evidence-based programs have found that if you can reach out to them immediately, support them during this time, that they are able to handle the situation in the long run,” she said.
New Jersey has a disaster mental health help line available at 877-294-4357, with a TTY number of 877-294-4356. Residents can also call 211 for the information.
Fessler Belli is optimistic for the future even though Hurricane Sandy devastated many parts of the state. “Every disaster is different and this one is large and the recovery will take a while, but people are really working hard, pulling together and people are generally very resilient,” she said. “It will take time, but there are a lot of resources out there and finding out information and what is out there helps in recovery.”