Chester Borough Joins Morris County Stigma-Free Initiative

 The Chester Borough Council has passed a resolution to declare the township Stigma-Free, making the total 31 of the county’s 39 towns that have joined the Morris County “Stigma Free’’ initiative, which aims to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

The Borough joins its neighbor Chester Township the newest members of  the grass roots movement that recognizes the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders in our communities.

The Stigma-Free initiative promotes re-education and understanding that can lead to treatment and recovery – minus the stigma associated with these illnesses.

“The  Mayor and Council of Chester Borough are pleased to join our neighboring communities in fighting the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction abuse through the Morris County “Stigma Free “initiative,’’ said Chester Borough Mayor Janet Hoven.

“Mental illness and drug abuse touch the lives of many, not only in Chester Borough, but in all of society. No one should feel less of a person regardless of an illness or addiction.  We support the initiative and hope that through this program, all residents will feel accepted and supported by all,’’ Mayor Hoven added.

Chester Borough joins a majority of Morris County municipalities that have signed on as Stigma-Free communities.

Other Stigma-Free towns are Boonton, Boonton Township, Butler, Chatham Borough, Chatham Township, Chester Township, Denville, Dover, East Hanover, Hanover, Jefferson, Lincoln Park, Long Hill, Madison, Mendham Borough, Mine Hill, Montville, Mount Olive, Morris Plains, Morristown, Morris Township, Mountain Lakes, Parsippany, Pequannock, Randolph, Rockaway Borough, Rockaway Township, Roxbury, Victory Gardens, and Washington Township, plus Morris County and the Montville Township School District.

“This initiative is an important step in bringing our entire county community together with a concerted and united effort to help affected people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana.

“It is support shown for this Stigma-Free initiative by towns like Chester Borough, and Mayor Hoven and the Council and their residents, that can make this grass roots effort succeed,’’ said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, the board’s liaison on Stigma-Free issues.

The Morris County Board of Freeholders in 2016 passed a resolution designating Morris County as a Stigma-Free County, joining an already established movement as a partner, and urging all of the county’s 39 towns to join the movement.

There is a Stigma Free websitewww.morriscountystigmafree.org to call attention to the initiative, provide information and resources, and a calendar of upcoming events related to mental illness and substance abuse. A Stigma Free Toolkit also is available for towns and communities.

The goal of this grass-roots Stigma Free initiative is to disseminate information and foster a stigma-free environment where people are free from judgment and can get the help they need to recover.

Here are just a few of the many voices in Morris County supporting the initiative:

Chester Township Mayor Marcia Asdal: “We understand that mental illness and addiction affect every community, and we know that no family or school or business is immune.’’

Washington Township Police Chief Jeff Almer: “This will make residents, as well as the police officers, more aware of the illnesses and work to create an environment where we can assist with wellness and recovery by providing needed support and resources.’’

Randolph Mayor Christine Carey: “This initiative recognizes that the stigma associated with mental illness, including substance abuse disorders, has been identified as the primary reason individuals fail to seek help.  We want to create a culture in our community that supports our residents in asking for help and in seeking treatment.’’

Lincoln Park Mayor David Runfeldt: “The issues of dependency and mental health affect all of us in our communities one way or another,’’ said “This initiative gets assistance to those who need it and acceptance to those that deserve it.”

As part of the countywide initiative, residents are urged to take the Stigma Free Pledge: https://morriscountystigmafree.org/take-the-pledge/

For information on the disease of mental illness, visit www.nami.org and for information on NAMI’s national Stigma Free effort, visit: https://www.nami.org/stigmafree