Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an additional $39 million awarded to New York by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to continue Project Hope, a crisis counseling program for survivors of Superstorm Sandy. In total, Project Hope has received over $58 million from FEMA and has served over 170,000 New Yorkers in need.
"Following Superstorm Sandy six months ago, the damage to New York was not only the devastation left behind but also the emotional and mental health toll it took on many individuals," Governor Cuomo said. "Project Hope was there to meet the vital need of over 170,000 people who needed help and with this additional funding, we will continue our deep commitment to help New Yorkers cope with the tragedy that is still fresh in their minds."
Project Hope is an outreach-oriented crisis counseling program with the primary goal of assisting New Yorkers with the return to their levels of mental health and functioning from before the storm. Crisis counselors provide confidential counseling, public education and connections to much-needed resources that help survivors move forward with reconstructing their lives. The support is provided confidentially and without a charge at a time and place that is convenient for the survivor. Crisis counselors travel to community centers, places of worship, as well as private homes, to meet and talk with survivors of all ages.
Project Hope employs more than 800 New York residents hired from within the communities where they live, 676 of whom are full-time direct-service crisis counseling staff. The Project Hope staff reaches out to the most impacted areas of Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Westchester counties as well as the five boroughs of New York City.
These crisis counselors are on the front lines and sometimes are the first people to reach out to Superstorm Sandy survivors. According to Project Hope staff, the examples below give a glimpse of what they see on a daily basis.
- Crisis counselors meet in a place that is convenient for the survivors, which allows a Long Island boy to talk privately with his parents and crisis counselors about how he started wetting his bed after Superstorm Sandy destroyed his house. Project Hope linked his family to more extensive counseling services within his community and he began getting the help he needed to recover.
- Project Hope created a support group at a local library in Staten Island, linking together people from the same community and reminding them they are not alone. Project Hope gave them a chance to talk about their experiences and find out what their neighbors are doing to recover from the storm.
- Project Hope helped the single mom from the Rockaways who felt lost and unable to remain strong for her children. Our crisis counselors listened to her concerns and taught her coping mechanisms that allowed her to regain the control that she felt that she has lost. She is now helping her children deal with their own Sandy-related stress.
Understandably, many people are experiencing lingering sadness and stress, said Project Hope Program Director Ken Gnirke. He added, The effects of this disaster can take months to catch up to some survivors. Our crisis counselors will continue to be out their communities helping people understand and cope with their reactions to this new normal forced on them by this extraordinary, life-changing event.
Although they will continue to offer individual and group crisis counseling, Project Hope teams will soon begin to expand their role to promote the development of support groups that communities can eventually sustain through their own efforts. In the coming months Project Hope will also continue to educate the survivors about coping strategies and available disaster-related resources.
We have a high level of accountability to ensure that we deliver qualitative services to survivors and we are fortunate to have provider agencies and staff that are knowledgeable, motivated and capable of ensuring the success of Project Hope. Whether its helping to sort out priorities so someone can move forward or offering coping tips and a go-to referral list, the combined efforts of the Project Hope staff have resulted in free, confidential crisis counseling services that have made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of New Yorkers, said Gnirke.
For more information about Project Hope, please call LifeNet at one of the numbers below and ask for Project Hope. Callers are carefully matched with their local Project Hope provider agency that knows their community and is ready to assist with their recovery.