2002-10-12 / Community

Smith Pushes Program For Those Coping With 9/11 & Flight 587 Crash

By Gary G. Toms

Smith Pushes Program For Those 
Coping With 9/11 & Flight 587 Crash

Peninsula Hospital Center official Robert Levine opened the meeting by welcoming attendees.Peninsula Hospital Center official Robert Levine opened the meeting by welcoming attendees.

State Senator Malcolm A. Smith hosted a meeting last week at Peninsula Hospital Center to discuss services and programs that can assist relatives of the victims of the September 11 attacks and the Flight 587 disaster. New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner James Stone provided a presentation on mental health services that are available to people who are still trying to cope with the tragedies.

The State Senator is working in conjunction with Project Liberty to offers these services. Project Liberty is a program that provides free counseling services to persons, families and groups most affected by the September 11 World Trade Center disaster. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) and the Center for Mental Health Services, Project Liberty is being administered by the New York State Office of Mental Health. It is a partnership between the Office of Mental Health, local governments and provider agencies.

Peninsula Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert Levine, attended the discussion, and Smith thanked him for the hospital's involvement with supporting efforts to provide mental health services to those still grieving.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer was also on hand to show support for the program, and the State Senator conveyed that Pheffer played a crucial role in helping to secure funding for the program.


State Senator Malcolm Smith hosted the discussion.State Senator Malcolm Smith hosted the discussion.

"I clearly have a partner in Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. She has helped me to obtain support in a number of ways for the program," said Smith.

"This grant was urgently needed in Rockaway, and I want to thank those who were instrumental in helping us to obtain this funding," stated the Assemblywoman.

Commissioner Stone addressed members of the panel by saying there was a need for people to understand that they were not mentally ill as a result of the tragedies.

"Many people thought that because they were sad or depressed after the events, that something might be wrong with them. Most often they were, and still are, going through the grieving process, which is normal. However, we found that over time, there were people who required mental health services, and we provided it," said Stone.


The meeting featured members from the political and medical community.The meeting featured members from the political and medical community.

"We did not provide formal mental health treatment initially. We evaluated each case, and those who had been adversely affected by the tragedies were tended to by trained professionals. Some of those services involved outreach programs."

Although a limited amount of funding has been made available, primarily to assist with Project Liberty's outreach efforts, Smith and Pheffer have submitted a proposal to Governor George Pataki requesting $1 million to broaden the scope of mental health services for Rockaway residents who are still dealing with the ramifications of 9-11 and Flight 587.

For more information on the program, you can call State Senator Smith's office at (718) 291-9097. You can contact Project Liberty at (1-888) 270-9857.


New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner James Stone (seated between Assemblywoman Pheffer and State Senator Smith), presented statistics on the number of people affected by the 9/11 and Flight 587 tragedies.New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner James Stone (seated between Assemblywoman Pheffer and State Senator Smith), presented statistics on the number of people affected by the 9/11 and Flight 587 tragedies.
Smith shares a laugh with Levine prior to the meeting.Smith shares a laugh with Levine prior to the meeting.

Ed Williams (left) representing Congressman Gregory Meeks, Pastor David Cockfield, (center) and Pastor Donald Ventura (Lighthouse, Inc. affiliates) discussed the impact of the tragedies in relation to communities of color.Ed Williams (left) representing Congressman Gregory Meeks, Pastor David Cockfield, (center) and Pastor Donald Ventura (Lighthouse, Inc. affiliates) discussed the impact of the tragedies in relation to communities of color.
Democratic District Leader Frank Galluscio (left) and District 27 Superintendent Matthew Bromme talked about how children have been affected by the disasters. "We must remember that children may also need mental health counseling in the wake of these events," said Bromme.Democratic District Leader Frank Galluscio (left) and District 27 Superintendent Matthew Bromme talked about how children have been affected by the disasters. "We must remember that children may also need mental health counseling in the wake of these events," said Bromme.

Richard Altabe, representing Yeshiva Darchia Torah, expressed the need for mental health counseling for people in the Rockaways.Richard Altabe, representing Yeshiva Darchia Torah, expressed the need for mental health counseling for people in the Rockaways.

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