Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Staten Island Mental Health Society

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

March 2016

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

October 2013 – December 2013

On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, many Staten Island residents still faced physical displacement and psychological distress.

When the storm came ashore on Staten Island in 2012, it caused catastrophic damage and 23 fatalities—more than any other borough. It was expected that the 2013 anniversary of the event would trigger strong emotional responses in many individuals. NYHealth awarded Staten Island Mental Health Society (SIMHS) a grant to address the psychological needs of Staten Island residents by providing access to free mental health crisis counseling and treatment services.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Provided Staten Island residents directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy with access to free mental health crisis counseling and treatment services during the storm’s anniversary period;
  • Advertised services widely throughout the community;
  • Provided clinician services at no charge during October–December 2013; and
  • Increased caseloads and services by 30% each month during the anniversary period—a significant increase from the previous quarter where requests for services rose at a rate of 10% per month.

Read more about the impact SIMHS’s services had on Staten Island residents affected by Hurricane Sandy:

Nathan, a 24-year-old resident of Staten Island’s Cedar Grove neighborhood, sought services from SIMHS in November 2013. He reported an inability to stop thinking about Hurricane Sandy. These intrusive thoughts inhibited him from engaging in employment or school, leaving him unable to move forward in his life. Recalling the night of the hurricane, Nathan had been fearful as the tidal surge flooded his street and house. He had encouraged his family to leave, but they refused and they all remained in the home. As the water continued to rise, Nathan and his family members escaped to the top floor.

During the flooding, Nathan and his family helped others to safety by sheltering them in their house. After the waters receded, Nathan’s family invited other neighbors to stay with them, as they had the only dry living space in the neighborhood. More than 25 neighbors took refuge in the top floor of Nathan’s home, where they all remained for more than a week. Nathan consequently developed an intense fear of water and began having panic attacks when he thought about or saw water.

After the storm, Nathan remained motivated to finding employment, and he volunteered with rebuilding parks on Staten Island. He worked with SIMHS to decrease his anxiety to a level where he can now function in an employment setting, increase his social connections, and seek employment. Nathan has been encouraged to continue volunteering. He has accepted some assignments in the community as a means to build confidence, social connectedness, and work-related skills, as well as to manage the anxiety that had previously immobilized him.

After receiving services from SIMHS, Nathan’s anxiety triggered by Hurricane Sandy has lessened, the images have faded into the background, and he is better equipped to focus on creating a future for himself.