PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 29, 2015

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Department of Health Funds Study To Identify Continuing Health Needs of Sandy-Affected New Jerseyans and Refine Ongoing Initiatives To Meet Needs

Department Also Highlights Other Recovery Investments

Recognizing the need to continually refine recovery initiatives to meet the health needs of families affected by Superstorm Sandy, the Department of Health allocated federal recovery funds to commission the Sandy Child and Family Health Study focused on identifying ongoing Sandy-related health needs. The study, released today and modeled after a similar five-year study following Hurricane Katrina, will inform the Department's ongoing provision of health services to Sandy-affected New Jerseyans. Many of the health needs identified in the study already are being targeted through existing Sandy recovery initiatives.

"The state always knew recovery from Superstorm Sandy would take years," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "In the aftermath of Sandy, the Department of Health recognized the need for research and so we funded this study so we could hear the concerns of recovering families and modify our ongoing Sandy programs to better address the needs of those who are still coping with recovery issues. For example, the Department sought to extend programs for behavioral health assistance and lead screening for another year."

The study was undertaken by Rutgers University and New York University, in collaboration with Columbia University and Colorado State University. It was funded by $1.1 million of federal Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) recovery funds, allocated to New Jersey through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Following Superstorm Sandy, discussions between the Departments of Health for New Jersey, New York and New York City as well as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response and various researchers and federal agencies uniformly recognized the need to better understand the long-term health impacts from major disasters like Superstorm Sandy. While the Department commissioned this study primarily to better serve people affected by Sandy, the study also can inform response and recovery to future severe weather events.

The Sandy Child and Family Health Study is one aspect of the Department's continuing work to address health impacts of Superstorm Sandy. Among other things, the Department has sought federal approval to continue two important recovery programs. The first, allocated $4 million of federal SSBG funds, already has provided behavioral health issue screenings for more than 50,000 people. The second, allocated $4.8 million of SSBG funds, has thus far allowed for the screening of more than 11,000 people for lead poisoning, including those at highest risk -- children under 6 years old, pregnant women, and professionals working to rebuild Sandy-impacted communities. If the extension request is approved, both programs will continue through June 2016.

Other examples of the Department's SSBG-funded Sandy recovery initiatives include:

· Recognizing that Sandy increased the stresses on families with children who have special needs, the Department distributed $5.2 million to social service agencies, county health departments, hospitals and advocacy groups to help thousands of families with special needs connect with medical and social services, and assist with developing individual service plans for children and families. Case managers and health care professionals ensured that these families had the services and resources they needed and worked with families to increase their resiliency to future disasters.

· Developed Mold Guidelines for New Jersey Residents and distributed more than 10,000 copies of the mold brochure in a dozen languages to homeowners, municipal offices, the Red Cross, Long-Term Recovery Groups, libraries and county health departments. More than 200 public health professionals and housing officials were trained by the Rutgers School of Public Health to identify and manage mold and mold related issues related to storm damage.

· Conducted West Nile Virus Public Education campaigns in the summers of 2013 and 2014 that included advertising on NJ Transit trains and buses and radio Public Service Announcements in English and Spanish. The Department also awarded $400,000 to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) to continue 24/7 access to poison specialists via telephone and to create storm-related educational materials and training sessions with local health departments on environmental health hazards.

These programs complement other health and social services initiatives being administered by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Families. 

A copy of The Sandy Child and Family Health Study is available at www.scafh.org

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NJDeptofhealth

Last Reviewed: 7/29/2015