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Posted Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Partners in Countywide Effort  to Foster Treatment and Recovery Mental Illness and Substance Use

The Kinnelon Borough Council has passed a resolution declaring the township Stigma-Free, making the total 35 of Morris County’s 39 towns, along with hospitals, schools, nonprofit agencies, and religious 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.

Stigma-Free Kinnelon logo

“We need so much more openness and understanding when it comes to talking about mental illness. Dealing with mental illness is extremely hard on its own, doing so in silence makes it even harder,” said Kinnelon Mayor James Freda.

Kinnelon is the latest member of the just-turned three-year-old grass roots movement in Morris County 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 Morris County Board of Freeholders on April 27, 2016 passed a resolution designating Morris County as a Stigma-Free County, joining an already established movement as a partner.

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 Kinnelon Borough, which has long been in the forefront in dealing with mental health and substance use issues. ’’

Kinnelon joins a vast majority of Morris County municipalities that have signed on as Stigma-Free communities.

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, Mendham Township, 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 Kinnelon —  Mayor James Freda and the township council — 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:Kinnelon Joins Morris County Stigma-Free Initiative

Pequannock Councilwoman Melissa Florance-Lynch: “In one way or another, everyone is affected by problems of mental illness and substance abuse and we want people to know the community is here to 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.’’

Butler Mayor Bob Alveine: “We want to help save lives by encouraging people with addictions to come forward, to seek treatment without worrying about any stigma, and to embrace their efforts and encourage their recovery.’’

Chester 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.’’

Morris County’s Stigma-Free website offers for a wealth of information and resources, a calendar of upcoming events related to mental illness and substance abuse, and a Stigma-Free Toolkit for towns, schools, and faith-based communities.

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

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.