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A breakfast reception was recently held to celebrate the opening of the CBHCare Wellness and Support Center located at 569 Broadway in Westwood and to learn about efforts to increase public awareness of services available at community mental health centers. The event was attended by more than 130 state, county and local elected officials as well as law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals and patient advocates.
Preceding the breakfast, Peter Scerbo, the center’s executive director, was joined by Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and Westwood Mayor John Birkner for an early morning ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“The beautiful Wellness and Support Center is an asset to all of us,” said Donovan. “It is our individual and collective responsibility to assure that individuals experiencing anxiety and depression know that there is help for them to find their way to productive and satisfying lives.”
Former governor Richard Codey, well known for his commitment to mental health, delivered the keynote address. He shared personal stories including going undercover at a shelter where he learned about the discrimination men face in dealing with issues of mental health. He noted that 50 percent of all hospitalizations of American veterans are due to mental illness.
“If that were for any other reason, there would be a human outcry,” Codey said.
Sharing the struggle endured by his own family as his wife, Mary Jo, sought help for post-partum depression, Codey described how the stigma of mental illness causes a whole family to suffer.
“It goes on too long before seeking help,” he said.
Mary Jo Codey’s experience has taken her from deep depression to the role of advocate and ambassador. Last November, the Codeys launched The Codey Fund for Mental Health to raise awareness, provide services and to “end the stigma associated with mental illness.”
A proclamation from the state Senate was presented to Ernest Villa, director, Mental Health Law Project, Bergen County Department of Health Services, in recognition of “exemplary service to those in need, dedicating his life and career as an advocate for the mentally ill.”
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale participated through a video presentation of legislation which would allow judges to mandate medication to non-compliant individuals.
“It is tragic when we read about someone walking onto a path of an oncoming train, when we see someone taking up firearms, attacking classmates or people at random ,” said Cardinale. “If we can treat those folks, we will see less of this kind of behavior because we can intercept a lot of it.” Formerly known as S-2828, the bill will be reintroduced in the current legislative session by Cardinale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.
For more information about the center, call 201-957-1800 or visit www.cbhcare.com.