disaster New Jersey Project Recovery
New Jersey Division of Mental Health Services Community Crisis Counseling
New Jersey's Project Recovery

Hurricane Floyd

On Wednesday, September 15th, Hurricane Floyd began to ravage sections on the Eastern Seaboard, with New Jersey and North Carolina feeling the brunt of the storm on Thursday the 16th.  By the time the skies cleared many areas of New Jersey were completely underwater. Somerset and Bergen Counties were especially hard-hit with entire communities flooded out, homes and businesses destroyed and vital components of the regional and national infra-structure, such as key telecommunications links disabled.

This website has been created for County Mental Health Administrators, Emergency Managers, Mental Health Agency Officers, and Crisis Counselors, as a hub for providing vital information in the delivery of Community Crisis Counseling under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant resulting from the Presidential Declaration of Disaster for the nine most affected counties in New Jersey.  This site will remain open throughout the duration of the grant and site visitors may use the e-mail link or phone contact numbers provided here to learn more about the guidelines for Community Crisis Counseling.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

New Jersey is fortunate in that it is one of the few states in the country to have developed and implemented a formal Disaster Mental Health Plan prior to such a disaster.  In conjunction with the State and County Offices of Emergency Management (OEM's), each county Mental Health Administrator has been charged with creating a network of qualified mental health professionals within their geographic area, and assuring that those counselors have attened one of the many Disater Mental Health training programs through the State Division of Mental Health Services (DMHS) or through Mental Health Screener Recertification training.  It is assumed, therefore, that most county and agency administrators have a working knowledge of their county's disater mental health plan and available personnel.

The following FAQ's address what is different in administering disaster mental health services under FEMA oversight and funding following a Presidentially Declared Disaster.  

Why is it important to follow the FEMA model?

There are a few compelling reasons. First and foremost, because it works! This format of post-disaster assistance has been used in countless disasters nationwide for several years with very positive results.

It is also required that this model be incorporated into the comminity crisis counseling efforts in any state receiving FEMA monies to fund disaster mental health efforts.  Bottom-line: To be reimbursed for work, agencies most assure that their efforts are compliant with the FEMA model.

What is the FEMA model of Community Crisis Counseling?

Many mental health professionals in New Jersey have been trained in various models of trauma or disaster counseling, including Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), National Organization for Victim's Assistance (NOVA) and others.  The FEMA model de-emphasizes the "mental health" feel of the counseling. Counseling sessions are less formal, less structured and less clinical in their design.

This model acknowledges the importance of CISM and other techniques for reducing the likelihood of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and other stress-related illnesses, but is intended to follow such immediate interventions, therefore complimenting those services, not replacing them.

The FEMA model uses "paraprofessionals" as the primary responders, not mental health professionals.  These "paraprofessinals" may have a range of training and no particular background in mental health or human services.  Therefore, they require supervision, ususal in a span of control of one mental health supervisor per every five paraprofessionals. These paraprofessionals are refered to as Crisis Counselors.

What is the role of the Crisis Counselor?

There are a number of helpful tasks for the Crisis Counselor, but none of them include conducting debriefing or therapy services.  Some of the critical roles for the crisis counselors include:

Assisting survivors in the identification and acknowledgement that dealing with new and complex organizations is difficult and can be very stressful.

Assisting in normalizing the experience.

In the service of stress reduction and behavioral efficency, assist survivors in organizing and prioritizing recovery tasks and external demands placed by recovery organizations.

Through crisis counseling, assist survivors in understanding defense mechanisms such as displacement and other factors that may contribute to or magnify anger and frustration toward governmental and other organizations.

Establish and maintain current information about a wide variety of recovery resources so the survivors can be appropriately referred.

Through counseling and training, assist survivors in obtaining or maximizing skills in areas to better enable them to work effectively with recovery organizations.  These skills may include such domains as communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, time management and stress management.

Representing the mental health perspective on the "unmet needs committee".

What tasks are not appropriate for the Crisis Counselor?

The paraprofessional crisis counselor should not:

Assume responsibility for representing the survivor to any other organiztion.

Advocate in an adversarial manner on behalf of a survivor.

Become an expert in disaster relief and recovery programs outside of crisis counseling.

Develop community resources for disaster relief.

Fund raising for disaster relief.

What is different about counseling services in this instance?

There are a number of subtle differences in the philosophy and practice of crisis counseling when FEMA funds are used to support the effort.

For example, the emphasis on the Community Crisis effort is placed on outreach! Just as T.W. Salomon addessed in his 1910 "P.I.E." model of trauma counseling, the "P" is for "Proximity"--going to the victims, whether they are in their homes or temporary shelters, and NOT waiting for victims to present at the local mental health agencies or hospitals. There are many reasons why victims may not make it to the offices of mental health providers, therefore the crisis counseling must be brought to them.  This idea is central to FEMA's model of Community Crisis Counseling. (P.S.- The "I" is for Immediacy, going to the victims soon after the disaster, and "E" is for Expectancy, approaching victims with a sense of hopefulness, knowing that truthfully, most victims do return to baseline functioning and daily life, with time and the proper assistance)

How long will the FEMA funding continue for crisis counseling efforts?

The first phase, known as the Immediate Action stage, lasts for 90 days.  In this instance, it ends on November 18th.  A Regular Service grant has been approved for by the State and may fund the continuation of services through the anniversay of the storm.  

As an administrator, who do I turn to for technical assistance and support in delivering Crisis Counseling services in my geographic area?

There are a number of useful contact people who may assist you.  At the State level, Gladys Padro, MSW, coordinates and oversees all aspects of the response. She can be reached at the Office of the Deputy Director of the Division of Mental Health Services in Trenton.  Her phone number is (609)777-0722.

Three Team Leaders are also available to assist you with the various tasks of developing and maintaining a response.

Steve Crimando, MA, is available and can be reached at (973)688-3504, or you may call MaryAnn CHernak, Ph.D. at (732)367-7128 The State-wide New Jersey Crisis Counseling Hotline can be reached at anytime at (800) 382-6717.

This site was developed by Steven Crimando, MA, BCETS, Diplomate, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress
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Last updated  2008/09/28 06:59:51 PDTHits  1589