The New Jersey Department of Children and Families has chosen Children’s Aid and Family Services (CAFS) to establish a network of prevention and clinical services for Bergen County students and their families in support of the New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services (NJ4S) initiative.
Funded by a two-year, $8.2 million NJ DCF grant, NJ4S Bergen’s mission will be to make prevention and clinical services easily accessible – and equitable – to more than 133,000 students in all 79 of the county’s school districts, according to a July 6 announcement.
Paramus-based CAFS will oversee the prevention aspects of the program, while CarePlus NJ, also headquartered in Paramus, will oversee clinical services. NJ4S Bergen will bring together CBH Care, Vantage Health System and West Bergen Mental Healthcare.
“A youth mental health crisis of the magnitude we’re currently experiencing requires a comprehensive range of support services coupled with a robust delivery model to ensure we reach all students, especially those with the greatest need, which is why we formed NJ4S Bergen,” CAFS President and CEO Shavonda Sumter said in a statement. Sumter also serves as the representative of the 35th District in the New Jersey General Assembly.
According to Bergen County’s 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment, mental health was described as a “major problem” by 67.2% of respondents.
Brigitte Johnson, president and CEO of CarePlus NJ, said the organization looked forward to the collaboration “to address this crisis and ensure every youth in Bergen County has access to compassionate, culturally-competent care within their communities.”
NJ4S Bergen will establish a hub-and-spoke infrastructure to expand access to services and support throughout Bergen County.
Staffed by health care professionals, NJ4S will be led by an advisory board made up of students, parents, community leaders, educators, faith-based leaders and others. Among the board’s tasks will be to identify preventative services that will be available through every school in Bergen County, as well as libraries, places of worship and other community spaces. Those interested in joining the advisory board may email Le’Var Starr, director NJ4S Bergen Hub, at [email protected].
In June, Valley Health System and nonprofit organization Christian Health unveiled the Valeridge Center for Behavioral Health and Wellness, located on The Valley Hospital’s Ridgewood campus, which also was launched to help address the mental health crisis in Bergen County.