RYE, N.Y. - Although most relief efforts focus on repairing the financial and tangible aspects of a victim's life or home, a federal agency is partnering with the Mental Health Association of Westchester to offer free counseling to Westchester residents affected by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
"We are primarily focused on the emotional damage aspect," crisis counselor Garen Amirian said of the program, dubbed Project HOPE. "We are there for people to talk to, and we cover a gap that a lot of other programs don’t account for."
About 890 homes throughout Westchester County were affected by the hurricane. According to Project HOPE team leader Dan Mancini, more than 100 of those homes were in Rye and Rye Brook.
Since the storms, the city, along with the Village of Rye Brook and the town of Harrison, has taken significant steps toward flood mitigation. In late March, the three municipalities entered into an intermunicipal agreement leading to the approval of an automated sluice gate to be installed inside the Bowman Avenue Dam. The Rye City Council also approved the creation a Flood Mitigation Committee, which met for the first time in March.
According to Mancini, the project was created by FEMA and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Association to address some of the unexpected consequences of the devastating floods.
"They understood that there was a need for crisis counseling," Mancini said. "Any natural disaster causes emotional damage and stress. Using a crisis counselor is very helpful."
Crisis counseling is available in a variety of ways. Whether it's over the phone, inside a living room or at a local coffee shop, the five-person Project HOPE team can be there. Counseling is available in group sessions or one-on-one.
"In Westchester, the hurricane was a very odd occurrence," Mancini said. "For us it's about going through and reassuring folks that what they're experiencing are normal reactions to an abnormal event."
For more information about Project HOPE or to contact them directly please call 914-345-5900 x7543.