Princeton, N.J.—In the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) pledged $5 million to help residents in its home state of New Jersey recover. While some initial funding went towards meeting urgent needs through the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the American Red Cross of Central New Jersey, RWJF also prioritized addressing the anticipated long-term health and mental health repercussions of the storm. Two years later, the Foundation continues to support the state and provide funding for much-needed mental health services.
“The Foundation learned a lot about the disaster-recovery process from our work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina,” explained Senior Vice President Jim Marks, MD. “So when Sandy struck right in our own backyard, we had some idea of the long-term mental health issues that could arise. Two years later we have not forgotten about those affected by the storm, some of whom still haven’t been able to return to their homes. Our recent grant work showcases our commitment to taking a long-term view in helping New Jersey recover.”
The Foundation’s ongoing support for MHANJ is intended to provide: (1) a process to monitor the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the behavioral health system in New Jersey; (2) 1,000 certified trainers to perform services in New Jersey communities under the Mental Health First Aid program; (3) a strong, proactive outreach initiative, coupled with case-management services, to help the most vulnerable; and (4) strengthened capacity and infrastructure to serve behavioral health needs during and after a disaster. An additional supplement will fund research to identify how Sandy victims accessed services and how those services were delivered, in order to determine if any improvements need to be made.
“Our counselors have heard from a lot of people who are still struggling. People who spent over a year without a home, people who lost everything they owned, people who are still, to this day, carrying a tremendous financial and emotional burden,” said Carolyn Beauchamp, CEO of MHANJ. “With the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s help, we’ve been able to reach out to people one-on-one within their community, check in, and make sure they know that they’re supported through this entire process.”
In addition to this initial commitment, RWJF also helped to repair 23 youth-serving organizations throughout the Garden State through a $1.5 million grant to the Snowflake Youth Foundation—the charitable arm of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee. See the list of facilities that were repaired at least in part thanks to that funding.
Additionally, the Foundation is providing major funding for an upcoming hour-long Town Hall Program on NJTV, called: The State of NJ’S Health: Living in Sandy’s Shadow. The program will be moderated by Mike Schneider and feature Thomas Kelaher, mayor of Toms River; Renee Bruwaski, director of the Office for Sandy Recovery at the NJ Department of Human Services, NJ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services; Adrienne Fessler-Belli, director Disaster & Terrorism Branch, NJ Division of Mental Health & Addiction Services; and others. The program will broadcast on NJTV on October 29th at 8:00 p.m. and will also be available online.
On the one-year anniversary of the storm, RWJF convened a Forum in Tom’s River to discuss Sandy’s impact on mental health. Watch a short video and learn more about the Forum.