Christie to Provide Counselors for Seaside Residents in Wake of Fire

By David Chang
|  Friday, Jan 17, 2014  |  Updated 5:10 PM CDT
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Aerial View 24 Hours After Seaside Boardwalk Fire


Firefighters look at the charred area the morning after a massive fire burned a large portion of the Seaside Park boardwalk, Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J.

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Firefighters Dousing Hot Spots on NJ Boardwalk

Firefighters continue to work on hot spots along the boardwalk in Seaside Park, as business owners come to grips with another devastating loss after nearly a year of rebuilding. NBC10's Chris Cato reports.
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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will deploy crisis counselors to provide emotional support for Seaside residents in the wake of Thursday’s devastating fire.

The fire broke out Thursday afternoon and engulfed more than four blocks of the Seaside boardwalk that was rebuilt only five months ago after it was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. Authorities in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights say more than 50 businesses were badly damaged in the blaze. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

“This heartbreaking tragedy comes so closely on the heels of Sandy devastation,” said Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, which oversees the Disaster and Terrorism Branch (DTB) and deploys crisis counselors to impacted areas.  “People still recovering from the stresses caused by Sandy are now experiencing more trauma, and likely will need some emotional support.”

Officials with the Christie administration say counseling will be available at the Seaside Heights Community Center at bay and Hancock Avenues from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and into the week if necessary.

“So many of these residents have just gone through an extended period of anxiety and uncertainly, and, now, the fire. We expect they will need emotional support,” said DTB Director Adrienne Fessler-Belli. “Many business owners already have seen their livelihood threatened and may be facing more losses.”

According to researchers, people who are dealing with a prolonged disaster recovery can experience increased anxiety and depression when the return to a regular routine is delayed.

“Following two large disasters in this community within 12 months, The American Red Cross wants to let the community know our resources are available for them," said Dr. Raymond Hanbury, a clinical psychologist who serves as the American Red Cross’ New Jersey State Lead for Disaster Mental Health. “One of these resources includes our Disaster Mental Health Unit to help individuals employ their own coping skills and resources to deal with these extremely stressful and tragic circumstances.”

There are currently more than 600 credentialed disaster crisis counselors in New Jersey and around 200 Hope and Healing counselors. For more information about New Jersey Hope and Healing, call 1-877-294-HELP (4357. For the Disaster Mental Health Helpline, call (877) 294-HELP (4357).

For confidential clinical mental health services, call 1-855-HOPE4U1.

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