Rockledge resident lends hand to aid Sandy victims




When Su­per­storm Sandy landed in late Oc­to­ber and greatly dam­aged the New Jer­sey coast­line, Katie Hop­kins wanted to do something to help.

Hop­kins, a Car­din­al Dougherty High School gradu­ate and Rockledge res­id­ent, is man­ager of gov­ern­ment re­la­tions for Ameri­Health Mercy, a health-care com­pany whose primary fo­cus is Medi­caid man­aged care.

“What can we do? What are our tools?” Hop­kins thought to her­self.

After con­fer­ring with col­leagues, she settled on a pub­lic event titled Su­per­storm Sandy: The Emo­tion­al Af­ter­math.

The sym­posi­um is set for Fri­day, March 8, from 10 a.m. to noon in the Cam­pus Cen­ter Theat­er of Richard Stock­ton Col­lege, in Gal­lo­way, N.J.

Hop­kins has lined up Patrick Kennedy, a former con­gress­man from Rhode Is­land and son of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, as the key­note speak­er.

“He’s been the No. 1 cheer­lead­er for men­tal health in the United States,” Hop­kins said.

Kennedy, 45, served in Con­gress from 1995 to 2010. After leav­ing the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives, he mar­ried a teach­er. He and his wife live in Brig­antine, N.J.

In Con­gress, Kennedy — who is bi­polar and has battled al­co­hol is­sues — helped shape a new law that re­quires group health plans to fund care for men­tal ill­ness at the same level as phys­ic­al ill­ness.

“He’s pretty can­did about his own struggles,” said Chris Drumm, a Pine Val­ley res­id­ent and seni­or vice pres­id­ent for gov­ern­ment and cor­por­ate re­la­tions at Ameri­Health Mercy.

Hop­kins said Drumm has provided guid­ance dur­ing the plan­ning stages, and she thanks the mem­bers of her team for hand­ling out­reach, RS­VPs and oth­er as­pects of or­gan­iz­ing the event.

Drumm, though, cred­its Hop­kins for the idea and the bulk of the work that has fol­lowed.

“It was a com­pel­ling idea, and to bring the idea to fruition is a lot of work,”” he said.

Hop­kins hopes in­vited par­ti­cipants in the event will help those deal­ing with storm-re­lated emo­tion­al trauma and acute stress, just like the vo­lun­teer plumb­ers and elec­tri­cians worked to get people back in their homes after Sandy’s wrath.

“It’s an im­port­ant event. I’m very ex­cited about it,” she said. “People will have to deal with the af­ter­math of the storm days, weeks, months and years down the line.”

Per­form­Care New Jer­sey, an af­fil­i­ate of Ameri­Health Mercy, is spon­sor­ing the day, along with At­lantic­Care, Cath­ol­ic Char­it­ies, the New Jer­sey As­so­ci­ation of Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tion Agen­cies and Richard Stock­ton Col­lege.

Well-known New Jer­sey broad­caster Steve Adubato will lead a con­ver­sa­tion with be­ha­vi­or­al health ex­perts. Three eld­erly couples who were dis­placed will also be in at­tend­ance.

“It’s a pretty ec­lect­ic group,” Drumm said.

The for­um will also in­clude Ad­rienne Fessler-Belli, the dir­ect­or of the dis­aster and ter­ror­ism branch of the New Jer­sey Di­vi­sion of Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tion Ser­vices. Her back­ground in­cludes work­ing with people im­pacted by the Sept. 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks and, more re­cently, Su­per­storm Sandy.

“She was with Chris Christie every day for two weeks,” Hop­kins said of Fessler-Belli’s work with the New Jer­sey gov­ernor in the af­ter­math of the storm.

An Ol­ney nat­ive and La Salle Uni­versity gradu­ate, Hop­kins cred­its her par­ents with in­stilling in her the val­ues to help oth­ers.

At Dougherty, she spent a week build­ing homes in a poor area of West Vir­gin­ia and par­ti­cip­ated in the Best Bud­dies part­ner­ship with the spe­cial-needs chil­dren at Our Lady of Con­fid­ence. She’s also vo­lun­teered for the Fox Chase Cham­pi­ons, which of­fers a sports pro­gram for young people with spe­cial needs.

In May, she plans to travel to New Or­leans to help build homes as part of the St. Bern­ard Pro­ject, an ini­ti­at­ive of law­yer Za­ck Rosen­burg, who’ll be a pan­el­ist at the up­com­ing for­um.

Hop­kins is buoyed by the pos­it­ive re­sponse to the for­um from church and com­munity lead­ers, first re­spon­ders and emer­gency man­age­ment of­fi­cials in At­lantic, Ocean, Cape May and Mon­mouth counties.

“People are com­ing out of the wood­work,” she said.

The mis­sion of Ameri­Health Mercy, which is based in Delaware County, just across the bor­der from South­w­est Phil­adelphia, is to help people get care, stay well and build healthy com­munit­ies.

After the for­um, Hop­kins ex­pects people ex­per­i­en­cing stress and emo­tion­al trauma to be able to get the re­sources they need dur­ing the on­go­ing re­cov­ery.

“We can help,” she said. “It is very re­ward­ing. It’s not every day you can reach out, build net­works and help change someone’s life.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­


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