Henry Street Launches NY Project Hope Counseling Project
By Henry Street Settlement
The COVID-19 crisis has brought untold emotional suffering, as people cope with loss of loved ones or their own illness, unemployment, and social isolation. Henry Street this March began an exciting collaboration with NY Project Hope, New York state’s crisis counseling response to help community members understand and cope with their reactions and emotions while the pandemic continues. Ultimately, the program’s goal is to stimulate individual and community resilience.
At the core of NY Project Hope is a team of crisis counselors who provide free emotional support, educational materials, and referrals to help community members move toward healing. The route to NY Project Hope is Henry Street’s Helpline, 347-493-2787, and counselors are available in English and Spanish. Typically, counselors make between one and five contacts with each caller to ensure they have support and can access resources they need.
NY Project Hope is a program of the NYS Office of Mental Health and is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Henry Street is one of more than 40 local providers in areas of the state most severely impacted by COVID-19.
“Crisis counseling is generally utilized following a disaster,” says Program Director Whitney Coulson, MSW, “when the mental and emotional strain of an event is felt by an entire community and additional resources are needed above the usual infrastructure.”
With Superstorm Sandy, she describes, the disaster happened at one point, although its repercussions extended over time in the form of property damage and family relocation.
“This time around is very different. A year into the disaster we can’t look back and see how far we’ve come. We’re still living in the middle of it.”
Community members are feeling emotional and mental health strain not only from social isolation, grief, and fear of the virus, but from food and housing insecurity. Counselors are trained community members who are prepared not only to listen actively and attentively, but to make sure that each participant’s needs are met with available resources, whether that is longer-term mental health support, material goods, or connections to other services.
“Food insecurity and housing insecurity bring their own mental strain,” Coulson says. “We will refer people to Henry Street’s programs, such as mental health and employment services, as well as outside resources around tenants’ and housing rights. People have a sense of emotional relief when they find out there are alternatives.”
NY Project Hope goes to the people, Coulson says, collaborating with schools, apartment communities, associations, and neighborhood groups to reach as many people as possible. The team has already begun presenting to school communities through zoom meetings or attendance at in-person events. Services can be provided to individuals or groups.
Henry Street is delighted to add NY Project Hope services to the constellation of ways in which the agency is responding to the COVID-19 crisis.