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Mental Health Month Focuses on Looking Around and Within to Improve Mental Health

NJAMHAA Advocates for Support of All New Jerseyans’ Wellness by Strengthening the Behavioral Healthcare System


MERCERVILLE: The theme for Mental Health Month 2023 (May) is Take Some Time to Look Around, Look Within to encourage individuals to realize how their surroundings impact their mental health and make changes where possible to enhance their well-being. The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) joins other mental healthcare stakeholders in communicating this message and reinforces its advocacy for funding to fully support the behavioral healthcare workforce, who are essential for many New Jerseyans to improve their health and achieve a high quality of life.


“Behavioral healthcare providers are extremely effective in helping individuals manage and recover from mental health and substance use disorders, and clinical treatment is just one of many types of support they offer. As mental health is greatly affected by social determinants of health — which include housing, food, transportation, education, employment and access to health care — and a lack of any of these necessities could also lead to behavioral healthcare issues, providers also offer services to meet these non-clinical needs,” said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of NJAMHAA.


One of many powerful examples of how behavioral health care and other support enable individuals to transform their lives is the story of Favio, a graduate of NewBridge Services’ Jobs Plus program, and his counselor Amy Sheppard, LCSW, Director of this program.


“I underwent a clinical depression, which caused me to feel very isolated on my own. I was dealing with past traumas that I hadn’t really dealt with properly. I already knew I wanted to make a change in my life. I just needed the resources to be able to achieve that and NewBridge was the place that I knew could help me,” Favio said. “Amy followed up with me week by week to check on my progress personally. One thing I can say about all the staff at NewBridge is that they go above and beyond.”


“There were pretty serious traumatic experiences that Favio had in his adolescence and it was really affecting his ability to function. He just needed a fresh start. He needed a way to work through those problems and then move on with his life,” Amy said. “He’s really intelligent, motivated and insightful. For a 17-year-old, he was exceptional. NewBridge definitely made the difference in the trajectory of his life. When he was able to be successful academically, vocationally and also healing from within, it made a huge difference. He now has a bright outlook on his future.”


Having earned a high school diploma through the Jobs Plus program, Favio provides freelance marketing services to businesses and is studying Business Administration at the County College of Morris. He plans to transfer to Rutgers Business School – Newark after he completes his Associate’s degree.


“I am tremendously inspired by the successes that Favio and thousands of other New Jersey residents have achieved, and I am equally moved by behavioral healthcare providers’ dedication and positive influence, which have made these accomplishments possible,” Dr. Wentz stated.


“There are many more people throughout New Jersey who deserve opportunities similar to those Favio received. To make such successes possible, the state budget must provide full funding to support the behavioral healthcare workforce and cover the cost of care,” Dr. Wentz added.

NJAMHAA is grateful that Governor Phil Murphy proposed significant funding increases to strengthen the behavioral healthcare workforce, and urges the State Legislature to vote in support of this funding, as well as additional provisions for which NJAMHAA is advocating.


Please click here to watch a video of Amy Sheppard and Favio sharing their story as part of NJAMHAA’s Diverse Faces: Partners in Care campaign and other videos of equally powerful examples of the value that the behavioral healthcare workforce provides; here to read NJAMHAA’s campaign brochure to read additional success stories resulting from mental healthcare, substance use treatment and other services; and here to read all of NJAMHAA’s budget and legislative priorities.


“As May is Mental Health Month, this is a prime opportunity to share examples of individuals seeking help for mental illnesses and achieving better health and many other important goals as a result,” Dr. Wentz said. “Such awareness building is always important as the need for services continues to increase and the more success stories are shared, the more progress toward eliminating stigma will be made.”




The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) is a statewide trade association representing 164 organizations that serve individuals in all of New Jersey’s diverse populations who have mental illness and/or substance use disorders, and their families. NJAMHAA members may be found in every county and almost every community statewide. They serve more than 500,000 children and adults each year and contribute to the economy through 61,000 direct and indirect jobs. NJAMHAA’s mission is to promote the value of its members as the highest quality behavioral healthcare providers for the residents of New Jersey through advocacy and professional development.

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