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Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Project Hope wraps up
Some counseling services will continue through L.B. Reach
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Courtesy Donna Pisacano Brown
Project Hope counselors provided “emotional first-aid” and various counseling services to Hurricane Sandy survivors for the past 16 months.

The crisis-counseling program Project Hope officially ended its run last week, after 16 months of helping Hurricane Sandy survivors cope with the emotional effects of the storm. However, because many remain in need of these services, local organization Long Beach Reach has been awarded a grant to continue a smaller program to address residents’ post-storm counseling needs.

The New York State Office of Mental Health created Project Hope in October 2012, a program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to helps people cope with the aftermath of the storm through counseling services. The program originally received $20 million in funding to provide immediate, emergency counseling services. But after acknowledging the continued need for services, the state awarded Project Hope an additional $39 million in May 2013, enough to extend the program until last month.

Program Director Ken Gnirke said that more than 370,000 individuals are estimated to have been served throughout the course of the program, whether through individual counseling, group counseling or public education seminars. The program operated across the nine counties most severely affected by the storm — Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx. Of the 32 Project Hope agencies statewide, 11 were based in Nassau County, with two of those in Long Beach. In Nassau County, the program aided 84,000 people, Gnirke said.

Gnirke said that Project Hope surveyed its program participants in both June and October of last year, to measure the success of the program, and determine what services were still needed. He said that a majority of the respondents reported that they were making progress and functioning better in all aspects of life, and found themselves in a better emotional, social and economical state than when they began counseling. However, he said that 20 percent of respondents said that “significant, emotional reactions” still interfered with their daily activities.

“There was really not an expectation that when the services ended, that there wouldn’t be an ongoing need,” Gnirke said.

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