Former Governor Codey Delivers Keynote Address
More than 130 state, county, and local elected officials; representatives of law enforcement and first responders; healthcare professionals; hospital administrators; advocates and family members recently gathered for a breakfast reception and program sponsored by Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., to celebrate the opening of the CBHCare Wellness and Support Center located at 569 Broadway, Westwood, NJ, and to learn about efforts to increase public awareness of services available at community mental health centers as well as the need for the development of innovative response to untreated mental illness in Bergen County.
Preceding the breakfast program, Peter Scerbo, Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare’s executive director, was joined by Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and Westwood Mayor John Birkner, Jr., for an early morning ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Center.
Following the ribbon-cutting, Donovan offered opening program remarks at SEASONS, Township of Washington. She stated: “The beautiful Wellness and Support Center is an asset to all of us. 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 J. Codey, (D-27), well-known for his commitment to mental health, delivered the keynote address at the breakfast program. 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 fifty 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 stated.
Sharing the struggle endured by his own family as his wife, Mary Jo, sought help for post-partum depression, Senator Codey described how the stigma of mental illness causes the whole family to suffer. “It goes on too long before seeking help,” he said. Mrs. Codey’s experience has taken her from deep depression to the role of advocate and ambassador. In November 2013, Senator and Mrs. Codey launched The Codey Fund for Mental Health to raise awareness, to provide services, and to “end the stigma associated with mental illness.”
Senator Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), spoke of the pizza shop employee, Richard Shoop, familiar to her legislative staff, who took his life in the basement of Garden State Plaza. She emphatically declared that “All of us who take our jobs seriously must stand up with courage like Senator and Mary Jo Codey so that people will ask for help and prevent future tragedies – we need the resources and the legislation.”
On behalf of the New Jersey Senate, Senator Weinberg presented a Proclamation to Ernest Villa, Jr., 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.” “Ernie has given dignity and respect to those who need it most throughout 37 years of public service,” said Weinberg.
Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39) participated through a video presentation of legislation which would allow judges to mandate medications to noncompliant individuals. His comments spoke to our collective pain when he said, “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 – if we can treat those folks, we will see less of this kind of behavior because we can intercept a lot of it.” He stated that the number of acts caused by people not being treated for mental illness would be greatly reduced. Formerly known as S-2828, the bill will be re-introduced in the current legislative session by Senator Cardinale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37).
In concluding the program, Executive Director Peter Scerbo stated, “This is an important day for Bergen County as we re-dedicate the best of ourselves to the important work of finding new ways to grow capacity to meet the untreated mental health needs of individuals and their families. Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare is proud to champion this effort. We are grateful for the experiences shared today and the obvious support for going forward.”
Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare has served people throughout Bergen County for 45 years. The Wellness and Support Center, 569 Broadway, Westwood, NJ, is near public transportation and the newly opened HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley. Walk-ins are encouraged. The Center is open seven days a week; telephone number is 201-957-1800. The organization’s website is: www.cbhcare.com.
PHOTO CAPTIONS (Photo credit/CM Photos):
(L to R), Bergen County Freeholder James Tedesco; Sue Devlin, Associate executive director, Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare, Inc.; former Governor Richard J. Codey (D-27); Senator Robert Gordon (D-38); Bergen County Freeholder Joan Voss; and Peter Scerbo, executive director, Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., enjoy a breakfast program celebrating the opening of the CBHCare Wellness and Support Center.
(L to R), Ernest Villa, director, Mental Health Law Project, Bergen County Department of Health Services; Bergen County Freeholder James Tedesco; Peter Scerbo, executive director, Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare, Inc.; Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37); Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan; Bergen County Freeholder Joan Voss; and Mayor of Westwood John Birkner, Jr., celebrate the opening of the CBHCare Wellness and Support Center in Westwood at a breakfast program with keynote speaker former Governor Richard J. Codey (D-27).
Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan; (far right) Peter Scerbo, executive director, Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., and (left) Mayor of Westwood John Birkner, Jr., cut the ribbon at the new CBHCare Wellness and Support Center in Westwood.
Pictured, Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, delivers opening remarks at the Breakfast Reception and Program following the opening of the CBHCare Wellness and Support Center in Westwood.