Institute for Disaster Mental Health expands statewide training role


main_imageThe SUNY New Paltz Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) has been awarded two $25,000 grants to fund new partnerships that will reinforce the Institute’s central role in training trauma responders throughout the state.

The first, awarded by the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) Bureau of Emergency Preparedness and Response, will partner IDMH with the state office to develop a one-day training curriculum to instruct state employees in the best practices of disaster mental health care.

“Training responders to address disaster-related needs has always been the Institute for Disaster Mental Health’s main focus,” said James Halpern, the Institute’s director. “We’re delighted to have this opportunity to work with OMH to ensure that the New York State training curriculum reflects current best practices.”

The second grant establishes a partnership between IDMH, Purdue University and the Center for Deployment Preparedness as part of the Star Behavioral Health Program. The goal of this partnership is to increase the number of professional counselors who are qualified to meet the specific needs of American service members, veterans and their families.

Halpern drew particular attention to the importance of IDMH’s work training counselors of American military personnel, saying that he and the Institute’s staff are “honored to expand our role in preparing counselors to assist those who have served our country.”

The Institute for Disaster Mental Health was established at the College by Halpern in 2004. Its mission is to prepare professionals, paraprofessionals, community members and students to provide care to disaster victims and survivors. The field of disaster mental health counseling has evolved rapidly in the 10 years since. The devastation caused by weather events like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and the trauma suffered by military service members at home and abroad, offer examples of the need to prepare responders for the range of survivors’ psychological and emotional reactions, and to ensure that responders are versed in accepted intervention techniques.

More information about the Institute for Disaster Mental Health can be found at