Freeholders create Office of Mental Health and Addiction

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(Camden, NJ) – The Freeholder Board is merging services to create a stronger response to the public health epidemic of opioid abuse and behavioral health with the Office of Mental Health and Addiction. Both conditions will be better served by a consolidated office with more resources and a combined mission to advocate and navigate a complex system for treatment.

Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, who organized the board’s addiction awareness task force in 2014, has been a leading advocate for more options to combat the variety of issues surrounding mental health and addiction.

“The Freeholder Board has been proactively combating the opioid crisis and developing policies to educate, treat and preserve sobriety amongst the thousands of our residents dealing with the disease of addiction. Mental health resources also play a pivotal role in ensuring the health and welfare of our residents and many times both conditions are concurring and services are severely underfunded,” Cappelli said. “It makes sense for us as a county to combine these services because of the synergies they share and bring more resources to the table for the good of our residents. This extreme time period calls for innovation and evolution and I think that is what this process has created with this new office.”

Opioid and heroin abuse will kill tens of thousands of individuals this year and hundreds here in Camden County. Mental health and addiction can be concurrent afflictions that the county now feels it can more effectively address with one office. This special division in the health department will link residents in desperate need of help and their families with one staff that is working on their behalf. This office will be the advocate and the navigator for individuals suffering under the anguish of behavioral health or battling the scourge of addiction. In addition, the office will also be a navigator for HALO (Healing After Loss to an Overdose) services for those grieving from the loss of a loved one. The office’s main objective is to cut the complex red tape and directly connect residents with services.

The new director to the combined office is John Pellicane, who will oversee the operation and has worked in the field for decades. His extensive experience as a social worker has given him acute knowledge of the system.

“Our objective, and what we can ensure for residents, is that this new office can provide to any caller, the hope that when they reach out to us, we know where they can obtain the mental health and substance abuse services they need,” Pellicane said. “We can provide one place to call. A unified information and referral system. A combined professional association. As one office and one staff we are stronger together.”

Pine Hill Police Chief Chris Winters explained how the newly created office would assist local law enforcement agencies connect people with services.

“As communities struggle to effectively deal with the often intertwined issues of mental health and addiction, law enforcement officers are on the front lines, working with individuals in their crisis state,” Winters said. “These are societal issues requiring a collaborative relationship among law enforcement, mental health and addiction professionals.  Bringing together mental health and addiction services within the County to work together with law enforcement is essential to combating these epidemics.”

Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the Camden County Health Department explained how this new division will be a priceless asset for residents.

“The Camden County Health Department continues to innovate and evolve to better address the needs and concerns of Camden County residents,” Rodriguez said. “The new Office of Mental Health and Addiction will focus on combating the opioid epidemic and assisting individuals with behavioral health conditions who are underserved and looking for help.”