Freeholders Proclaim September as “Mental Health and Drug Abuse Recovery Month” in Morris County

The Morris County Board of Freeholders are proclaiming September as “Recovery Month in Morris County,’’ part of a national observance held each September to educate all residents that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable persons dealing with those problems to live healthy and rewarding lives.

Freeholders smile for the camera

The county this September is teaming up with Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany to highlight prevention, treatment, and recovery programs and facilities at the hospital and throughout Morris County.

An important aspect of Recovery Month efforts is to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and mental health disorders.

The Freeholders have declared that Morris County is a “Stigma Free’’ community, and 34 of the county’s 39 towns have joined in the countywide effort to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

“National Recovery Month is a time to educate our residents that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives,’’ said Deputy Freeholder Director Christine Myers.

“It celebrates the gains made by those in recovery here in Morris County, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease,’’ added Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, the county governing board’s liaison to the Stigma-Free initiative.

Accepting the Recovery Month proclamation at the freeholders’ Aug. 22 meeting were Greystone CEO Tomika Carter; Christopher Dorian, Director of Co-Occurring Services at Greystone; Morris County Director of Behavioral Health Services Laurie Becker, and Barbara Ward, member of the Morris County Mental Health Mental Health Addiction Services Advisory Board.

Greystone has planned a special “Wellness Wednesdays’’ program for patients at the state hospital. The Sept. 5 program will include speakers from the community to discuss their stories of recovery.

Mental and/or substance use disorders affect millions of Americans and directly touch the lives of individuals, family members, neighbors and colleagues.

Given the widespread impact and societal cost of these behavioral conditions, it is important for communities to make prevention, treatment and recovery support available and accessible for all who need them.

Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sponsors National Recovery Month to increase awareness of behavioral health conditions.

The theme for 2018 is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Invest in Health, Home, Purpose, and Community.’’

The countywide goal of the Morris County 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 from addiction and mental illness. Residents are urged to make the Stigma Free Pledge:

For more information on the county’s Stigma Free campaign, please visit:

For more information on mental illness, visit and for more information on NAMI’s national Stigma Free effort, visit:

Stigma-Free September at the Morris County Library

The Morris County Library will host inspiring and fun-filled events in September to bring people together to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use/abuse through creative expression, education and resources.

The library’s month-long focus on stigma is part of the countywide Stigma-Free initiative in which most of the county’s towns, county government and law enforcement, schools and nonprofit organizations are banding together to help foster treatment and recovery.

We urge you to take the Stigma-Free individual pledge.

Open Mic Night, Sept. 6, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Open to all ages. Performers, musicians, instrumentalists, singers, storytellers, comedians, poets, dancer, magicians and all others are welcome to perform in a supportive and sober environment where they can explore and expand their talents.

Kickoff Event, Sept. 9, 2-4 p.m.  Premiere showing of the animated short film “Fighting Stigma: Heroes & Villians.” Children 12 and under can create a mask and everyone is welcome to listen to performances and personal stories from people who have experienced mental illness and/or substance use and abuse.

Words & Rhythms: Storytelling & Drum Circle, Sept. 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m. This workshop is created for families, combining the power or traditional and personal storytelling with traditional drumming to create positive family memories. It offers parents and children activities that foster understanding and a sense of belonging in a safe space.

Learn to Talk to Your Teens: Transformational Storytelling for Parents, Sept. 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Work to improve your ability to communicate a clear message to your teens on bullying, drugs, peer pressure, suicide and substance use under the guidance of professional speaker and counselor Anna Toby and professional storyteller Rivka Willick.

Anna will lead a candid and honest conversation with adults about substance use and challenges of today’s youth. Rivka will share her unique system to discover, shape, transform, and share personal stories focused on the topics that matter.

To register, visit, email or call 973.985.7548.

Morris County Library is located at 30 East Hanover Ave., Whippany.

Heartbreak of the Opioid Epidemic

From Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey:

This week, I turn the PDFNJ blog over to New Jersey resident Don Riebel, whose son, Colin, died of a heroin overdose at age 22 in 2013. Don and his wife, Bobbie Lynn are featured, along with Dr. Andrew Kolodny, in an episode of Full Frame Close Up: Prescribing Pain, that was released by CGTN America this week talking about Colin’s story and the New Jersey legislation that they believe could have saved their son’s life.

On Nov. 23, 2013, I found my son in his bed not breathing. I immediately began giving him CPR until the paramedics arrived only to be told that they could not revive him. He was gone.

Until that fateful day, Colin had refrained from drug use for two months after being released from rehab 48 hours prior. Since age 15, Colin a former community/high school athlete struggled with opioid addiction. His love of sports would play the starring role in his untimely death.

Colin blew his rotator cuff playing baseball his freshmen year in high school, which resulted in surgery and a recuperation period that included a regimen of Percocet. During his sophomore year in high school, Colin participated in the sport he loved the most: football. In a span of three years, he tore his ACL three times, and each injury required surgery, bone grafting, physical therapy and pain management.

Pain management was a continuous regimen of Percocet. It wasn’t until Colin came to us and admitted to having a problem that we realized he needed help. His desire for that euphoric effect outweighed his love of sports and slowly began to take control of his everyday life.

The signs were not there in the beginning. Colin didn’t lose his charming demeanor, sense of humor and overall kindness for which he was known. It was first recommended to us that Colin would need outpatient rehab, which he consistently attended for about six months. Outpatient rehab turned into inpatient rehab, and after several attempts at remaining abstinent — along with more stints in rehab — his opioid addiction eventuality transitioned into heroin use. From there, he entered a downward spiral that no one saw coming.

Heroin took my son’s life at age 22. It took his dreams and our dreams that one day he would be in recovery and able to tell his story in his own words. This epidemic has stolen too many lives and has forced parents to bury their children. A child’s death is life out of order.

Addiction affects the whole family and through that experience our intent is help educate parents so no other parent feels this pain. If only I, as a parent, had known the dangers, the outcome would have certainly been much different. We have the responsibility to advocate for our children by making sure that we are present and participating in our child’s medical treatment. Ask questions and, most importantly, question your provider about prescriptions and whether or not they can become addictive. Just do not accept that the only way to effectively manage your child’s pain is through these types of drugs. Ask for alternatives.

Mendham Township Joins Morris County Stigma-Free Initiative

Now 34 Stigma-Free Morris Towns Joined in a Coordinated Focus on Mental Illness and Addictions

The Mendham Township Committee has passed a resolution declaring the township Stigma-Free, making the total 34 of Morris County’s 39 towns, along with hospitals, schools, nonprofit agencies, and law enforcement groups that have joined the countywide “Stigma Free’’ initiative.

The overriding goal is to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and with substance abuse disorders. The goal is to get people who need help into treatment programs.

“We are planning to address a wide range of challenges, from substance abuse and mental health to supporting individuals with special needs,’’ said Mendham Township Committeewoman Amalia Duarte. 

“We want to be a welcoming community and make sure all families feel included and supported,’’ added Committeewoman Duarte, who is leading the Stigma-Free effort for Mendham Township.

Committeewoman Duarte said Mendham Township plans to work with neighboring Mendham Borough on the Stigma-Free initiative (Mendham Borough passed a Stigma-Free resolution in 2017) and create joint programs and activities to highlight the issues of mental illness and addiction.

“Mendham Township is pleased to join so many other towns in promoting mental health and encouraging a Stigma-Free community.  Mental illness is a serious public health concern,’’ said Mendham Township Mayor Rich Diegnan.

“Research shows us that there is significant overlap in those with substance abuse disorders, as they also suffer from other mental health disorders. We can continue to fight stigma through meaningful conversations with one another and increasing awareness of these difficulties that so many people face. I am proud that Mendham Township has taken the pledge to be stigma-free,” added Mayor Deignan.

As part of the countywide initiative, residents are urged to take the Stigma Free Pledge

Mendham Township is the latest member of a less-than-two-year-old 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.

Leaders of this movement from across the county are now working with school districts and faith-based groups to become active participants.

“The goal is to bring our entire county community together in a united effort to help people seek recovery, without fear of stigma or reprisal,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “We are glad to be members of the Stigma-Free community, along with Mendham Township.’’

Other Stigma-Free towns are Boonton, Boonton Township, Butler, Chatham Borough, Chatham Township, Chester Borough, 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, Mt. Arlington, Mountain Lakes, Netcong, Parsippany, Pequannock, Randolph, Rockaway Borough, Rockaway Township, Roxbury, Victory Gardens, and Washington Township, plus Morris County.

“It is support shown for this Stigma-Free initiative by towns like Mendham Township —  Mayor Rich Diegnan, Committeewoman Duarte and the full township committee — and their residents that can make this grass roots effort succeed,’’ said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, the board’s liaison on Stigma-Free issues.

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

Mendham Borough Mayor Neil Henry: “We have all been affected by mental illness in some way. Becoming Stigma-Free is the first step in fighting this disease as a community. Only by removing the perception of shame or embarrassment will we erase those feelings that prevent our neighbors, friends and family members from seeking help.’’

Mt. Arlington Mayor Michael Stanzilis: “We want everyone to know help is available and no one should suffer alone. Establishing Stigma-Free communities will raise awareness of resources and encourage residents to engage in care as soon as a need is identified, so that recovery can begin, hope is inspired and tragedies are avoided.’’

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.’’

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.

A Stigma Free website provides a members-provided wealth of 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, schools, and faith-based communities.

As part of the countywide initiative, residents are urged to take the Stigma Free Pledge:

For information on the disease of mental illness, visit and for information on NAMI’s national Stigma Free effort, visit:

Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace which results from the judgment by others. When an individual is labeled by their illness they experience judgment and prejudice. Stigma brings experiences and feelings of shame, embarrassment, distress, hopelessness and reluctance to seek or accept help.