OCL hosts OC Mental Health Awareness Committee & NAMI Provider Fair

Freeholder Gerry P. Little presents a proclamation from the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders to the Mental Health Awareness Committee.

Freeholder Gerry P. Little presents a proclamation from the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders to the Mental Health Awareness Committee.

Ocean County Library hosted the Ocean County Mental Health Awareness Community Awards and Proclamation Ceremony and the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Provider Fair Thursday in the Toms River branch.

More than 150 people attended the program and fair.

“This is the first time we paired the two groups,” said Michael Roche, Ocean County NAMI Vice President and a member of the Ocean County Mental Health Board. “We took advantage of this pairing so that we can make people more aware of what’s available in the county.”

“Oftentimes people do not seek help until there is a crisis,” he said. “This shows the community who the providers are before a crisis erupts.”

Twenty to 25 per cent of the county’s residents deal with people with mental illness, he said, and approximately 60 per cent of those with mental illness do not get treatment.

About 19 providers took part in the provider fair, said Michael Jones, Ocean County NAMI President. The two largest participants were Ocean Mental Health Services and Preferred Behavioral Services. Both groups provide treatment services for adults and children with mental illness.

“When a person is released from a mental health facility or hospital, they need some type of services: psychiatric for medication and counseling services,” Jones said. “They and other providers who are here provide those services.”

The awards ceremony included a proclamation from the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and was presented by Freeholder Gerry P. Little. He is chairman of the Humans Services Department.

The program recognized outstanding community advocates for their efforts to promote mental health awareness and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health. Those honorees included:

The Hugh J. Boyd, Jr. Elementary School Staff in Seaside Heights, who promoted resiliency, coping skills and mental health support and treatment for their students and student’s families following Hurricane Sandy received a “You Make a Different” award. The award was presented by Michele Greene-Ferrante.

Toms River Police Chief Mitchell Little was recognized for his role in mental health education for police officers. Following his request for a class on mental health, more than 100 police officers and dispatchers attended a four-hour class that resulted in an increased awareness of mental health that will benefit the community. The award was presented by Michael Jones.

Kathy Greene, LCSW has been a consumer advocate throughout her career and takes a proactive approach to developing new services to meet consumer needs. She has worked with children and adults to help them see past the barriers of stigma to realize their life goals. The award was presented by Joy Reinhart and Jim Cooney.

The Training and Education Collaborative of the Justice Involved Task Force was formed in 2010 to bring information and awareness to the law enforcement community through education that is specific to mental health, trauma, crisis intervention and stigma reduction. The award was presented by Tracy Maksel.

And the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Bill Sette, founder and long-time President and CEO of Preferred Services. His 35-year career provided treatment to people with mental health and substance abuse needs. The award was presented by Michael Blatt.

Nate Yerkes presented the third annual “The Voice” Youth Essay and Poetry Contest award to Paige Sjoblom for her poem, “Friends are Always there” that demonstrated an understanding of mental health and ways to support friends living with mental illness.

The evening concluded with the Seventh Annual “What a Difference a Friend Makes” Art Contest Awards presented by Christina Gaetano, Mental Health Awareness Committee Chairperson. The awards were given to a dozen local fifth-graders whose winning entries will be featured on calendars that will be available free of charge at all library branches and other locations throughout the county.

The following is a list of the winners, their art teacher, and their school:

Patrick Zuccarelli, Lori Rutigliano, Mill Pond Elementary

Brandan Sorensen, Helayne VanSickle, Regional Day School

Fiona Cheng, Joseph Posa, Mill Pond Elementary

Danielle Gaughran, Loreen Reiman, Whiting Elementary

Carli King, Lynn Jillson, Frog Pond Elementary

Colin Berg, Cathy Burke, Joseph A. Citta Elementary

Jennifer Amaro, Gretchen Freund, Manchester Township Elementary

Thalia Kearney, Brooke Schlosser, South Toms River Elementary

Adriana Paolillo, Nicole Raia, Manchester Township Elementary

Marie Sierra, Nancy Corsaro, Hugh J. Boyd Elementary

Anne DiTullio, Danielle Maher, Nellie F. Bennett Elementary

Jessica Balbuena, Nancy Corsaro, Hugh J. Boyd Elementary.

More information about the Mental Health Awareness Committee of Ocean County can be found at their website http://www.stigmahurts.org

Photographs of the event can be found on the library’s Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/organize/?start_tab=one_set72157644165446930

Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little congratulates the winners of the "What a Difference a Friend Makes" contest.

Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little congratulates the winners of the “What a Difference a Friend Makes” contest.

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