NUTLEY, NJ - The new Director of Nutley Family Service Bureau spoke about the many services the organization provides Nutley at the Board of Commissioners public meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17. Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco was absent excused.

Joe Armentano, licensed clinical social worker and Nutley Family Service Bureau’s (NFSB) new director of the clinical services and programs spoke about suicide prevention. Armentano recently replaced Felicia Gardner as director, although she remains on staff at NFSB..

NFSB has been in Nutley since 1913. “One of the things we always tried to do is be adaptable and grow […] with the town. […] We want to position ourselves be a part of anything the town is doing.”

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The mission of the NFSB is to strengthen the emotional and social well-being of individuals and families through affordable mental health counseling and affordable social services. Some of the services offered by NFSB are case management- they have 450 clients which consist of couples, individuals and families that go for psychotherapy; a men’s group; a women in transition group; a group for families of loved ones who are affected by addiction; and a social skills groups for kids.

Armentano said two of the biggest issues in mental health right now are the opioid crisis and the alarming rate of suicide and suicide attempts, especially in veterans, police officers, first responders, the elderly and youth. “Nutley is an example of it. I mean we have been touched by a couple of particular examples. […] When the town was hit by suicides recently and sudden deaths we were there. We had about three years ago unfortunately a suicide in the high school and we opened our doors for two weeks and provided free services to anybody that wanted to walk in,” he said.

Armentano said because of NFSB Executive Director Eileen Painter’s role, they are able to be available to the community and the surrounding communities and be responsive to their needs. “We’ve grown into a professional staff of licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, and a lot of support people. […] Because we've been successful in growing on the mental health side, we been able to expand with our social services,” he said.

Due to the new law in New Jersey, requiring mental health as part of the curriculum of every public school from kindergarten to grade 12, NFSB is working on a partnership with the schools and Superintendent Julie Glazer.

NFSB is participating in the Out of the Darkness walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on Sunday, Oct. 14 in Verona Park. The walk will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Mayor and Public Works Commissioner Joseph P. Scarpelli asked Armentano about stigma and how it relates to people not getting the help they need, especially in suicide prevention.

“I think probably Nutley is probably one of the best communities to be an example of that. […] what happens in a town like Nutley, what you see here tonight which is such a strength in the town also becomes a barrier because everyone knows everyone; judgment is something that people fear. The whole idea of stigma where it is connected to groups like first responders, veterans you’re talking about groups of people who see seeking health treatment as weakness,” said Armentano.

Bergen County has 69 out of 70 towns that are stigma free. Armentano said. Stigma free shows there is a commitment to anyone who comes to that environment will feel welcome in terms of who they are and whatever way they may be stigmatized.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mauro G. Tucci said the township will help further any efforts by NFSB. Revenue and Finance Commissioner Thomas J. Evans added that the organization does more than mental health. NFSB also has a food pantry and a thrift shop, both located at the same building at 169 Chestnut St. across from their mental health office at 155 Chestnut St, which are run by volunteers.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1.


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