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Project Hope Offers White Plains Crisis Counseling

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- As White Plains families hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene continue to rebuild their homes, a government-run organization would like to remind Westchester residents that a five person team is working to offer free, anonymous crisis counseling across the county.

Dan Macini, a team leader for the Project Hope Crisis Counseling Program , said counselors work to help residents realize stress and emotional distress are “completely normal” after experiencing a hurricane or flooding.

“Even though the storm is now six or seven months old, reach out for help. It’s never too late to try to get connected to resources,” Macini said. “People focus on the financial damage or the tangible damage, saying, ‘Oh I need to rebuild my home.’ Of course that comes first, but especially now as those restorations start to see completion, really check in to see how you’re doing emotionally.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency teamed up with the Mental Health Association of Westchester and other governmental agencies to staff a roving counseling team in October. Since then, Project Hope has assisted approximately 850 people. Most of those counseled live in Rye, Mamaroneck, Elmsford, parts of White Plains and Bronxville, where homes in flood planes were bombarded with water last summer.

Project Hope’s three crisis counselors will continue to meet anonymously with Westchester residents at a location of their choice through mid-November.

“We can provide these sort of crisis counseling sessions anywhere at any time: libraries, coffee shops, diners, in the person’s home if that makes them feel the most comfortable, parks,” Macini said. “They don’t have to give us their name or address or telephone number.”

Within the next month, Project Hope plans to offer educational and support groups to educate Westchester residents about how to prepare for future natural disasters.

“Let’s learn from how it took a lot of people by surprise and apply those for the next time, so we’re a little bit more prepared,” Macini said. “We’ll have some stress management things in place and we’ll know how to prepare our children for the storm or deal with their reactions and learn more about the secondary effects of a storm like hidden mold.”

Project Hope advises anyone who wishes to learn more about the services they provide to call (914) 345- 5900 ext. 7543.

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