The RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention (IFPR) began providing emotional support services at the Middlesex County vaccine mega-site in Edison through its Hope and Healing program for COVID-19 support.
The mega-site in Edison, managed by RWJBarnabas Health, is the first and only vaccination site in the state to offer emotional support services, which includes therapy dogs on-site.
“The primary goal of Hope and Healing is to provide emotional support, ease anxiety and help deal with the stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Michael Litterer, director of Prevention and Recovery at IFPR, said in a prepared statement. “There can be a great deal of anxiety before, during and after the vaccination process, and our specially-trained team is able to mitigate that stress and connect people to additional resources if needed.”
“The Murphy Administration is acutely aware of the emotional impact of COVID, and this is another of many steps to ensure that New Jerseyans get whatever support or crisis counseling they need to bolster their resiliency,” New Jersey Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman said in the statement. “This pandemic has taken its toll on many people’s mental health, and it’s important they know that they are not alone and that help is available.”
Hope and Healing emotional support staff serve at the mega-site seven days per week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in observation and exit areas.
In addition, therapy dogs are on-site through partnerships with community organizations such as the Tri-State Canine Response Team and the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. The certified therapy dogs are stationed in exit areas and rotate throughout the site to provide comfort and support to those being vaccinated, according to the statement.
“IFPR’s Hope and Healing team are a welcome addition to the mega-site,” Bonnie Geissler, MHA, RN, director of the mega-site and vice president of Special Projects at RWJBarnabas Health, said in the statement. “We are already seeing the positive impact that the team and therapy dogs are having on our community members as they take this important step towards protecting their health.”
The Hope and Healing program is provided by IFPR in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services and is funded through a FEMA/SAMHSA grant. The program offers emotional support services, education and community-based resources for individuals and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, helping them to better adjust to their new reality, mitigate stress, review options, develop coping strategies, and, if needed, find linkages to agencies, programs, and other resources in their community.
In addition, the Hope and Healing team also offers one-on-one support through its help line — (833) 795- HOPE (4673) — as well as weekly virtual support groups, workshops and other virtual events.
More information is available at rwjbh.org/hopeandhealing.