“He’s the most spiritual man I know. South Jersey’s sanity savior gets his own movie.

Violet Marrero didn’t believe much in therapy, but she knew she needed help. So about eight years ago, she turned to The Starting Point, a nonprofit counseling center in South Jersey that, for decades, has been a lifeline for thousands of sufferers. mental health and addiction issues.

Initially, Marrero finally began to find relief from the traumatic scars of a long-term, violent and past relationship. There, she met Vince DiPasquale, the agency’s clinical director, a former Catholic priest who would be a legend even beyond local recovery circles if he wasn’t so humble. DiPasquale ultimately worked with her personally, helping her heal the rest of the way – and not caring what her insurance would cover.

So recently, when the now 48-year-old happy Marrero was invited to take part in a documentary about DiPasquale and The Starting Point, she didn’t miss a beat.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without a starting point,” said the injury prevention educator. “I know my life would not be the same. I am grateful to have found them.

Soon more and more people will be hearing about The Starting Point.

This Tuesday, November 9, will be the premiere of “Starting Point: The Story of Vince DiPasquale”, a documentary directed by filmmaker Bill Horin, creative director of ArtC, an arts organization in South Jersey. The film will be screened at AMC Voorhees at 7:30 p.m.

As drug overdoses and desperate suicides have reduced life expectancy in the United States in recent years and drug addiction is a national epidemic, the documentary’s directors say their story is a story of hope. about a remarkable man and the organization he founded 44 years ago. It started as a halfway house for six alcoholic men in Philadelphia and now provides counseling, referrals, education and support to thousands of people each year at its Haddon Township offices.

The starting point is home to 35 mental health and addiction professionals who offer their services on a sliding scale of fees, including free for some patients who cannot afford to pay. Twenty-six support groups, including many 12 Step groups, meet regularly in the building.

At the heart of the organization is DiPasquale, born in Camden, now 81 years old. He left the priesthood after 20 years, at 46. He is now married. In addition to being the director, he sees patients and gives talks in person and on Zoom that draw viewers from across the country. He knows what he is talking about firsthand; he is working on his own 12-step program and is recovering from an eating disorder on his own.

Scott Rosen, one of the film’s main sponsors, credits DiPasquale with helping him recover from the depression, anxiety and addiction he suffered as a child decades ago.

“As someone who has faced the enormous impact of their own mental health issues, I understand the power of the healing gifts that Vince shares with every lecture, every individual session, every interaction,” said Rosen, who heads a local human resources department. solidify.

“Now, at a time when awareness of depression, anxiety and addiction is at an all time high,” he said, “this movie lets everyone see Vince’s inspiration and how it helps us find our true starting point. “

Rosen and the film’s creators hope to share the film at film festivals and via online streaming.

Joe Curran, executive director of The Beacon Point, a drug and alcohol treatment program in Kensington and chairman of the board of The Starting Point, has been a friend and colleague of DiPasquale for over 40 years.

“Vince is the most spiritual human I know. By that I don’t mean religious, ”Curran said. “I mean he has a presence of peace and spirituality that touches people in a very, very unique way.

“I’ve seen the toughest and the toughest people soften and melt when Vince talks to them. The barriers simply disappear. He connects with people in a way that isn’t threatening. It’s just something unique that he does, it’s a gift.

Meanwhile, the down-to-earth, unpretentious guy who is the object of all this admiration had to be convinced to make the film.

“To be honest with you, this is something that one of my board members came up with,” DiPasquale said, almost appearing to apologize. “I guess he’s doing something about the legacy. I said to my wife, ‘Don’t they usually do these things after you die?’ But it’s good.”

And the film gives DiPasquale, who holds a master’s degree in pastoral support, the opportunity to talk about the work of helping people with addiction and mental health problems, a mission he is passionate about.

“For me, it’s a matter of the mind,” he said. “When I was a priest, I was a prison chaplain. I have worked with drug addicts, alcoholics and [mental health] programs for a long time. So I had a lot of experience even before I started Starting Point.

DiPasquale personally refers almost everyone who comes to Starting Point to either an internal counselor or an external program for help. He insists on offering the mobile fee scale because, as stated on the Starting Point website, his organization’s mission is to create “a world where no one dies because they couldn’t find help.” for mental health, addiction or recovery issues ”.

“It’s me,” DiPasquale said.

Supporters of the film want to publicize Starting Point and its founder. But they also hope the film can help the organization find the support it needs.

“When COVID hit, there was a whole shift in everyone’s ability to pay for anything,” Curran said. “I’ll tell you it’s been a tough year. We are a non-profit organization; we’re really bad at fundraising. We’re trying to take this route right now.

The film, he said, could potentially attract sponsors to help continue the centre’s work. The profits from the first will be donated to Starting Point.

The boss, meanwhile, says he believes it.

“The Higher Power will get it where it’s supposed to go. As long as I stay away, it works, ”DiPasquale said. “For years the starting point has operated what I call ‘miracles of faith’. Financially, we never had a ton of money. We depend on donations. We survive. We have a small staff, but we do a lot. I always joke: it’s Michael the Archangel who runs the place, not me. “

At the premiere, he can just sit back and enjoy the show.

Tickets can be purchased online at startingpointmovie.com.

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