Mental Health disaster preparedness in New Jersey has been evolving for nineteen years. In collaboration with the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, in 1989, the New Jersey Division of Mental Health Services developed its first mental health emergency response plan.
Since the early 1990’s, New Jersey has responded to several declared disasters as well as many undeclared community incidents including: coastal storms, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the repatriation of gulf war military personnel, urban fires, airplane crashes, a massive gas explosion, the repatriation of Kosovo’s citizens to New Jersey, support to hurricane Katrina evacuees, incidents affecting schools, floods, the September 11 tragedy and the anthrax bioterrorism incident originating from postal facilities in New Jersey.
The September 11, 2001 disaster and the Hurricane Katrina disaster brought nationwide focus to the importance of mental health disaster planning and response. Following the September 11 tragedy, and the anthrax crisis, New Jersey’s public mental health system provided substantial crisis counseling, clinical services, information and referral, and specialized interventions. Many of these services continued to be provided for three and one half years following the disaster.