News from the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners
Shanel Y. Robinson, Commissioner Director Ÿ Doug Singleterry, Commissioner Deputy Director
Sara Sooy, Commissioner Ÿ Melonie Marano, Commissioner Ÿ Paul M. Drake, Commissioner
For Immediate Release
May 10, 2023
Somerset County Launching Programs and Sponsoring Events during Mental Health Awareness Month
‘Stigma-Free’ Conference on May 19 Open to All
(L-R) Somerset County Commissioner Deputy Director Doug Singleterry
recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month with Department of Human Services Addiction
Services Director Lisa Federico and Behavioral Health Navigator Stephanie Billitz.
SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerset County is recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month in May by offering events and launching a new mobile outreach van to bring local attention and solutions to a nationwide mental health crisis.
About one-fifth of Americans have diagnosable mental health conditions, in any one year, and 23 million Americans have substance use disorders, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. “Almost 67,000 people are struggling here in Somerset County,” said Commissioner Paul M. Drake, human services liaison. “The county’s goal is to provide as much information, education and access to services and programs as possible to help serve and support our residents.”
The Somerset County Board of County Commissioners this week passed a proclamation in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and emphasized the importance of combatting social stigma that can be an obstacle to people getting the help they need.
As part of Somerset County’s commitment to destigmatizing negative stereotypes about mental health, the Human Services Department will host free events and launch new services this month.
- On May 19, there will be a “Stigma Free” conference at Raritan Valley Community College that will be free and open to the general public.
- On May 25, there will be a “YOUth Tell Us” forum in the Human Services offices in Somerville designed for youth in grades 8 to 12.
- In addition, the county is launching a Somerset HELPS mobile outreach van that will travel to communities that cannot easily travel to the county’s offices in Somerville where many services exist.
In recent months, the county has made other investments in mental health such as the expansion of the Richard Hall Health & Wellness Center in Bridgewater and in using funds from the national opioid settlement funds to establish a Behavioral Health System Navigator. Somerset County residents who need assistance locating mental health and substance-use disorder services, can now contact Behavioral Health System Navigator Stephanie Billitz at email@example.com or call 908-203-6130.
“Too many of our neighbors and loved ones are dealing with mental health issues, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Meg Isbitski, the county’s Mental Health Administrator. “The county is doing everything it can to reach those residents in need of services.”
Free Conference and Teen Forum
“Stigma-Free” conference, May 19, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Raritan Valley Community College on 118 Lamington Road, Branchburg, NJ 08876. This is an educational, free event to help reduce negative stereotypes about mental health. The conference will provide learning modules, live testimonials, and community resources. Breakfast and lunch will be available. To register, click here.
“YOUth Tell Us” forum, May 25, 6 to 8 p.m., in Conference Room 1, at 27 Warren St., Somerville, NJ 08876. This forum is for youth in grades 8 to 12 for the purpose of gaining perspective and feedback about how they are feeling and experiencing mental health. There will be giveaways and refreshments. The program is made possible by Tri-County Care Management and the Somerset County Human Services Department. To register, click here.
Mobile Outreach Van
The county will introduce the “Somerset HELPS” van, which will function as a mobile human services hub, bringing needed information, resources, and services directly to families and communities throughout Somerset County. It will also be a mobile food pantry and offer free books and giveaways. Bilingual social workers and other professionals will be available to provide information, resources, and referrals to services and assistance with applications to safety-net programs.
Somerset HELPS van schedule is listed below:
- May 19, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg
- May 19, 4 to 8 p.m., Good Shephard Lutheran, 300 Union Ave., Somerville
- May 30, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., County Food Bank Network, 7E Easy, St., Bound Brook
- June 3, 8 to 11 a.m., Hillsborough Municipal Complex, 379 South Branch Road, Hillsborough
For more information, contact the Somerset County Department of Human Services Planning and Operations Administrator Zach Berliner at 908-704-6300, or ZBerliner@co.somerset.nj.us.
For general questions or comments about the Somerset County Department of Human Services, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 908-704-6300.
Stigma Free in Somerset County
The Stigma-Free Campaign is an initiative of the Somerset County Department of Human Services to raise awareness about the tangible impact that mental health stigma has on the community. Stigma is the practice of associating negative stereotypes with certain memberships or characteristics, such as substance-use disorders, race, social class, income, and intellectual or developmental disability status. This can create barriers and challenges that could be eliminated in relationships, housing, employment, and education. Many are ostracized, isolated, and rejected based on perceived differences and societal values. Embracing a stigma-free culture encourages dignity and respect for residents of Somerset County, reduces fear of judgment as a barrier, and celebrates the differences that make our community diverse and multi-faceted.