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Mental Health Association in New Jersey Receives $735,780 Grant From Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Funding to cover gaps in mental health services for Sandy survivors

VERONA, N.J., July 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The physical devastation left by Hurricane Sandy was clearly evident the day the stormed passed through New Jersey. But its toll on the mental health of survivors continues to unfold months later – and history suggests that coping with financial and personal consequences of the storm may lead to continuing cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. The Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) announced today that it has received a $735,780 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to fund projects in three areas that directly address gaps in the behavioral health recovery services being provided for Sandy survivors in New Jersey.  

The grant will fund the MHANJ's three-pronged approach to help address the impact of Superstorm Sandy on New Jersey's disaster and behavioral health community response, namely: Monitoring and Preparing for the Future, Mental Health First Aid, and Outreach to the Most Vulnerable. These initiatives will roll out over the next few months.

"With all of the attention to rebuilding property, we must not forget the importance of addressing the emotional effects of Sandy. Before the storm, New Jersey's public behavioral health system was already stretched, and there were often long waiting times for appointments," stated Carolyn Beauchamp, President and CEO of the MHANJ. "This critical funding from RWJF will help to reinforce a behavioral health presence in the recovery planning effort. This is imperative to ensure that system resources are adequate to meet immediate and long term needs of survivors and gain strength for the future."

"Our experience with Hurricane Katrina and other traumatic events has shown us that funding is most readily available in the weeks and months after a disaster, yet the impact of these tragic events can last for years," said John R. Lumpkin, MD, Senior Vice President and Director of the Health Care Group at RWJF. "That is why the Foundation is pleased to fund the MHANJ's comprehensive response to the mental health needs resulting from Hurricane Sandy and future disasters.  This work will help identify current gaps in behavioral health services and strengthen the mental health system's capacity to support New Jersey's most vulnerable citizens."

Project Descriptions
The MHANJ program funded by RWJF will focus on three specific initiatives:

  1. Monitoring and Preparing for the Future: The MHANJ will develop a process to monitor the utilization and capacity of New Jersey's behavioral health system to address expanded needs of Sandy survivors in Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth counties; and then will apply the research and data collected to develop a framework for future preparedness. Rutgers University will assist in establishing a data collection structure for referral and provider resources to encompass pre- and two years post- Sandy. It will include public and private agencies providing psychiatric emergency services and hospitalizations, crisis counseling, individual and family outpatient services, and support groups.
  2. Mental Health First Aid: Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognized education program that helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The MHANJ will create MHFA training opportunities for organizations involved in disaster response and other community gatekeepers such as service clubs and clergy in Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean Counties, to expand their knowledge to recognize the onset of mental health problems and increase their capacity to provide outreach and assess and refer survivors to needed services.
  3. Outreach to the Most Vulnerable: The MHANJ, one of the leading providers of peer-to-peer services in New Jersey, will expand its existing peer outreach in Atlantic and Ocean Counties to target those survivors who are among our most vulnerable -- the elderly, disabled, homeless and those with severe mental illness. Working in partnership with community gatekeepers, the MHANJ's peer case managers will reach out to these survivors, providing ongoing assistance and linkage to recovery and needed behavioral health services.

"Managing the psychological consequences of Sandy is a priority for County Mental Health Administrators in the impacted communities," said Tracy Maksel, President of the New Jersey Association of County Mental Health Administrators (NJACMHA) and the Ocean County Mental Health Administrator. "The NJACMHA is confident that the support from RWJF will positively impact Sandy survivors and we look forward to continued partnership with the MHANJ in the community response to disaster mental health needs"

The outcomes of each of these initiatives will be used to influence the state, county and community recovery efforts. The project will gather data and evaluate the impact of the activities, and then create a final set of tools to help improve preparation and response by the behavioral health system to future disasters, especially for the most vulnerable survivors.  

RWJF is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. Focusing on the most pressing health and health care issues facing our country, RWJF works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. The Foundation has invested more than $1.5 billion in New Jersey since 1972.

About the Mental Health Association in New Jersey
The Mental Health Association in New Jersey strives for good mental health for children and adults through advocacy, education, training and services. Its statewide headquarters is located in Verona, New Jersey; additional offices are located in Galloway, Jersey City, Toms River and Union.  For more information about the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, visit www.mhanj.org or call 973-571-4100.

SOURCE Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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