Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd today announced the first phase of a $4 million initiative that provides grants to community health centers and hospitals to provide behavioral health screenings to individuals struggling with stresses associated with Superstorm Sandy.
"The stress of continuing recovery efforts coupled with economic losses incurred as a result of the storm can be daunting. These psychological effects can negatively impact an individual's overall health and well-being," said Commissioner O'Dowd.
In Phase 1, nearly $2.2 million in federal Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds will be awarded to seven community health centers and three hospital systems in the nine counties most affected by Superstorm Sandy. The funds will be used to screen 48,000 individuals for behavior health issues and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse and refer them for evaluation, treatment and other services.
The grants range from $600,000 to Meridian Hospitals Corp. in Ocean and Monmouth counties to $140,000 for the North Hudson Community Action Center in Bergen and Hudson counties. Meridian will screen 15,000 registered in its outpatient primary care centers and mobile sites. North Hudson is expected to conduct screenings for 2,000 individuals. The grant funding extends through September 2015.
Later this spring, a request for proposal will be issued for the remaining $1.84 million to health care providers, including hospital emergency departments.
"Studies have demonstrated that following disasters there are often increases in problems of coping with stress and trauma-such as mental health issues, household discord, substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse," said Commissioner O'Dowd.
"Often the problems of post-traumatic stress are not seen right away, but they need to be addressed as an integral part of patient care. Primary care providers are already treating people for medical care so they can also screen their patients for behavioral health issues and refer them for evaluation and treatment," the Commissioner said.
The grants are designed to serve individuals in the nine counties most impacted by Superstorm Sandy-Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union.
Grants totaling $2.16 million were awarded in the first phase to:
· Meridian Hospitals Corp.
· Visiting Nurses Association of Central NJ Community Health Center
· AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center
· Ocean Health Initiative Inc.
· Jewish Renaissance Medical Center in Middlesex and Essex counties
· Southern Jersey Family Medical Center
· Newark Community Health Center
· CarePoint Health Foundation
· North Hudson Community Action Center; and
· Complete Care Health Center in Cape May County
The state Department of Human Services has a formal agreement with Rutgers' University Behavioral HealthCare (UBHC) to provide clinical mental health and substance use disorder treatment services to Sandy survivors. A tele-health option is available. To access services, call New Jersey Mental Health Cares Helpline at 866-202-HELP (4357), (TTY 877-294-4356).
Suspected child abuse and neglect, whether occurring at home or in child care centers, schools, foster homes, residential treatment centers, and other institutional settings, must be reported. Call 1-877 NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873, TTY 1-800-835-5510) toll-free, 24-hours a day, seven-days-a-week hotline to report suspected child abuse.