While COVID-19 makes its horrific mark on New Jersey, we at Family Connections are continuing to serve thousands of people of all ages through our dynamic programming. In talking to these clients, we’re hearing increased symptoms among those who already had mental health issues and reports from clients now experiencing new feelings of depression, anxiety and social isolation. We are also seeing a dangerous increase in substance use and domestic violence among our clients and their families.
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s important that we all recognize how central mental health support is at this time. We must also acknowledge that many of the issues individuals are dealing with now will last long after this virus is gone.
Thanks to our heroic staff, Family Connections has successfully moved all our mental health and addiction services to tele-health. We’ve found that many of our clients are even more willing to share over the phone than in person. But as some clients are continuing to receive support, others are hitting one roadblock after another. Many have had a difficult time getting access to the technology they need for tele-health. Additionally, privacy has become an issue, which never was before with our face-to-face meetings: Naturally, individuals don’t want to be overheard in their home during a counseling session. Some live with their abuser who monitors their every move/call and others are teens who are difficult to engage over the phone. When a client hits a roadblock, we try to come up with as many creative solutions as possible, because we understand how important it is — now more than ever — for them to receive the support they need.
Agencies like Family Connections are seeing a growing necessity for mental health services in Northern New Jersey and have had no choice but to pivot and find ways to support those growing needs. As individuals and families are struggling, we are working hard on new technologies and other solutions to bring clients onboard and find safe ways to communicate with them — all while we’re seeing an escalating need within the community.
My hope is that the State and Federal Government will continue to recognize the toll this virus is taking not just on people physically, but also emotionally. It’s going to be more important than ever for everyone to have access to mental health services. Family Connections will continue to do whatever we can to provide a dose of hope to those who need it most, because no one should have to deal with these challenges alone.
Chief Executive Officer
Family Connections, based in East Orange, is a social services organization centering services on the needs of our communities, delivering dozens of counseling, skills-building, training, and prevention programs rooted in cutting-edge research. FC has service locations in Orange, East Orange, Maplewood, and Paterson, and school based programs at Orange High School, Orange Preparatory Academy, Columbia High School, Maplewood Middle School, and Bloomfield High School.