The Institute for Disaster Mental Health at SUNY New Paltz and New York State Homeland Security team up to prepare for radiological catastrophe

NEW PALTZ – The 10th annual Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) at SUNY New Paltz conference, “Radiological Readiness: Preparing for Dirty Bombs, Nuclear Disasters, and other Radiation Emergencies,” will be held Friday, April 19, 2013, on the SUNY New Paltz Campus.

The conference will serve to strengthen community preparedness for catastrophic radiological events. It will be an important opportunity for new information and recommendations to be discussed, and to be incorporated into planning procedures by organizations that will need to collaborate in the response to these potentially catastrophic events.

According to Dr. James Halpern, director of IDMH, the training has two primary goals. The first is to increase knowledge among emergency management personnel, public health and mental health professionals, first responders, and the general public about the probability, effects, and consequences of radiological disasters. The second goal is to increase communication and information-sharing among professions and agencies critical in disaster response.

“A radiological disaster, be it the intentional dispersal of radioactive material in a terrorist attack or an accidental release from a nuclear power plant, would present an unprecedented challenge to responders,” said Halpern. “Public fear and misunderstanding are sure to compound immediate and longer-term response and recovery demands. It’s essential that emergency personnel, healthcare workers, mental health professionals, and others plan how to work together to support each other throughout this kind of disaster.”

The conference will consist of keynotes, plenary presentations, and professional workshops. Full program details, presenter biographies, and registration information for this event, which is being sponsored by the New York State Office of Emergency Management, Campus Auxiliary Services, and The Bookstore at New Paltz, are available at Registration (including lunch) is $85.

Keynote presenter Steven M. Becker, Ph.D., a leading international expert on the public health, risk communication, and preparedness and response issues associated with large-scale emergencies and disasters, will address the social, behavioral, and risk communication issues in radiological emergencies as well as lessons learned from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident.

A multidisciplinary panel on the New York State Response to Radiological Catastrophes will include Commissioner Jerome Hauer, Ph.D., New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services; Adela Salame-Alfie, Ph.D., Acting Director, Division of Environmental Health Investigation, New York State Department of Health; Lloyd I. Sederer, M.D., Medical Director, New York State Office of Mental Health; and Diane Ryan, L.C.S.W., Regional Director of Disaster Mental Health and Partner Services, American Red Cross in Greater New York Emergency Services. Afternoon workshops will provide an opportunity to learn and practice skills related to the medical response to radiological incidents, assisting children and families, and other specific needs.

“In the midst of all the other catastrophes and disasters we cannot lose sight of the fact that radiological preparedness is as important as gun safety and hurricane preparedness,” said Greg Brunelle, director of New York State Office of Emergency Management. “The information learned here will be invaluable if we are to face radiation disasters.”