SERV Centers of New Jersey Responds to the Greatest Needs in Hudson, Union and Passaic Counties
The challenges of the pandemic—distress, economic strife, and unprecedented curbs on social interaction—have had a marked effect on people’s mental health. Since the state’s first shelter-in-place advisory in March 2020, SERV Centers of New Jersey (SCNJ) has received a significant increase in calls from referring agencies, individuals, and families seeking mental health services.
In addition to increased stress, depression, and anxiety, many SCNJ clients have reported a loss of employment, financial hardship, and food insecurity. As they navigate the pandemic, these individuals have struggled to meet their most basic needs and provide for their families.
As a subsidiary of SERV Behavioral Health System, Inc., SCNJ provides residential, community-based partial care services for adults with a mental illness or co-occurring needs in six counties in New Jersey. SCNJ also provides outpatient behavioral health services for children, youth, and adults. In response to the pandemic, SCNJ expanded to include telehealth services.
With support from New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), we also expanded our work to provide emergency assistance to individuals and families in Hudson, Union, and Passaic counties, and distributed 320 $50 gift cards to clients in financial need. The clients have used the gift cards to purchase clothing, food, medication, baby products, school supplies and other necessities.
“Social determinants of health such as housing and food security can have a pivotal impact on the physical and mental health of clients,” said Pauline Simms, Chief Operating Officer of SCNJ. “By alleviating some of their financial concerns, we were able to support clients beyond the traditional provision of psychiatric and medical services.”
Aside from providing financial relief to hundreds of people, an unexpected benefit of our work was that the gift cards offered us a way to re-engage with clients who had not received treatment since the onset of the pandemic.
“These individuals required treatment, but remained in isolation for several months,” Simms said. “When they returned to our facilities, we were able to engage in meaningful conversations with them, learn about their struggles, and quickly get them the care they needed.” This may have been the best benefit of our efforts. If we hadn’t been provided this opportunity to reconnect with these individuals, they may have continued to suffer in silence.”