LODI, NJ - Lodi will host its first Mental Health Symposium, Beyond the Stigma, on Wednesday, December 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lodi Senior Center located at 15 Walnut Street in the borough. The event is co-sponsored by the Lodi Mayor and Council, Lodi Chamber of Commerce, and Lodi Municipal Drug Alliance.

The symposium is part of the Lodi Community Action Network (C.A.N.) initiative and commitment to leading discussions on mental illness, healing, wellness. Lodi is a part of Bergen County's STIGMA-FREE initiative, "the county-wide program which aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness," according to the Bergen County website.

Symposium panelists include:

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  • Dr. Yesenia Flores, licensed psychologist, Bergen Psychological Services
  • Lynette Shaw, Mental Health trainer, LynnShaw Group
  • Anastasia Agramonte, LCSW and Lodi HS/MS School based Clinical Program Manager (Care Plus NJ)

According to James Tassillo, vice president of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, conversations about such an event began in May at the Chamber's one-year anniversary. He introduced Shaw and Flores, two of the panelists, who continued the discussions with current Deputy Mayor Vinny Martin.

"We were all excited to hear that Deputy Mayor Martin was very optimistic and wanted to assist in any way to get a symposium together for this year," said Tassillo. "Now we have a chance to help bring mental illness awareness to our residents as well as anyone who would like to learn more about the topic."

Martin brought the idea to the Mayor and Council and said he "didn't have to do much convincing."

Now retired, Martin was a 27-year veteran of the Lodi Police Department. He said he was faced with these issues on a daily basis, and noted that people need to "look beyond the stigma and make the community aware of the issues in mental health. It's going to be a plus for the community."

Tassillo also acknowledged the help of Christine Orosz, Director of Guidance in the school district, as they were able to enlist Agramonte to participate in the panel.

"We wanted the Lodi Municipal Drug Alliance to be a part of this Symposium to help educate our residents of their programs and what it has to offer," said Tassillo. "A lot of moving parts came together, and that's what our chamber is about, bringing businesses and the residents together to make a greater Lodi."

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.org) statistics, mental illness has become an issue that communities deal with:

-1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year

-1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year

-1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

-Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 


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