By Anthony Birritteri, Editor-in-Chief May 20, 2021
Whether it’s because of the COVID-19 pandemic or for other reasons, more and more people are talking freely about their mental health and asking for help.
According to former Governor Richard Codey, who was the keynote speaker at the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) 70th anniversary virtual celebration, “We live in a different world than 2005 ( the year Codey, as governor, formed a task force to reform the state’s mental health system). “Today people are ready to talk about their mental health.”
Codey, who owns a funeral home in Caldwell, a family business he’s been involved with for decades, remembers the stigma of mental illness of old. “When I was a child working in the funeral home, the Catholic Church did not allow a funeral mass for someone who had committed suicide, and a Christian burial was also not allowed,” Codey said.
Today, as a state senator who also manages the Codey Mental Health Fund, he says, “I constantly get calls from people seeking treatment. We live in a different society now.
Debra Wentz, President and CEO of NJAMHAA, said the pandemic has led to a significant increase in depression, anxiety, drug addiction, overdoses and suicides, and that there has never been had greater awareness of mental health issues.
“You cannot have a conversation, watch TV, listen to the radio, or read the news without [mental health issues] being mentioned, ”Wentz said.
This is good news for NJAMHAA, which has been at the forefront of helping people with mental health and addiction problems since 1951. Each year, the association and its member companies (which have a workforce of of 61,000 people) help 500,000 children and adults.
It is an organization which, according to former governor Jim McGreevey, has “changed lives”.
“NJAMHAA has played an important role in providing access to vital behavioral health treatments. Because of the wide net that the organization has cast, we have all shared our understanding of equal access and provision of behavioral health care and addiction treatment, ”said McGreevey.
As president of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, which offers a wide range of social and vocational training services to former incarcerates, McGreevey noted that of the 11,000 participants who signed up for Reentry Corporation programs, 78% have problems. addiction, while 42% have mental health issues.
Meanwhile, Susan Loughery, President of NJAMHAA and Associate Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, commended the Murphy administration for its initiatives to improve access to mental health and addiction treatment through legislation. parity and the creation of new crisis stabilization centers.
“We look forward to new psychiatric residences and increased funding to address the opioid crisis, which are in the governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022,” Loughery added.
In a pre-recorded video message, Gov. Phil Murphy said he was proud his administration had made mental health and addiction services a legislative and budgetary priority.
“I want to be clear that mental health is not only as important as our physical health, it is also part of our physical health. We must continue to work to remove the stigma and shame that prevent people from asking for help, ”he said.
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