IDMH Director to Support 9/11 Survivors, Families at Memorial Museum Opening

SUNY New Paltz Faculty & Staff Portraits

Dr. James Halpern

Dr. James Halpern, director of SUNY New Paltz’s Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH), will join a handful of Red Cross mental health volunteers to assist with providing emotional support for families, survivors, first responders, and visitors touring the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City from May 15-21.

“Considerable time has passed since 2001 and there has been much healing, but for those who lost loved ones or were injured on that day, attending the museum opening will likely be very difficult,” said Halpern. “It is an honor to be of some help to these survivors.”

Halpern was invited to volunteer due to his significant involvement with the Red Cross response to the 9/11  attacks. He led the first organized Red Cross disaster mental health team to Ground Zero; managed the Missing Persons Hotline, a major point of contact for weeks after the disaster; supported the visits of firefighter families to the site; and assisted residents in moving back to their neighborhoods. Halpern also supervised SUNY New Paltz disaster practicum students who supported 9/11 survivors at various memorials held at the World Trade Center site.

According to the Red Cross, mental health teams have been part of its Disaster Services dating back to the early 1990s. Then the goal was to provide support to volunteers on a disaster relief operation. The mission has expanded over the years to meet the types of needs seen during responses like the Oklahoma bombing, events of 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. As knowledge has increased regarding the psychological impact of traumatic and disaster-related events, the contributions of disaster mental health volunteers have become increasingly important.

For more information about the museum visit

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