NEWTON, NJ -  Assemblyman Parker Space (R-24) accepted a lamp and a card from his former colleagues on the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders before the regular agenda began at the May 23 meeting.

Looking around at the full meeting room, Space said to Freeholder Director Richard Vohden, “You must be a more popular freeholder director than I was, because I never had so many people here.”  

Many of the people were actually at the meeting to hear a report from the county mental health board. The mental health board provides services to children and adults with mental or drug abuse problems.

Sign Up for E-News

Melissa Latronic, director of community and youth services, said the report was the result of gathering data and applying it to the desired outcomes. 

Christine Florio, who works under Latronic, explained this is actually a plan update started with a 2012 human services needs assessment. They had a focus group report on services as they saw them and reported a perception that there is a severe shortage of individual help. The mental health forum held in January attracted more than 60 participants including police, mental health service personnel, representatives of agencies and health care workers.

Dr. Debra Koss, chair of the mental health planning committee, said mental health services in the county concentrate on outreach, education, collaboration and advocacy.

“We are aware a lack of knowledge and stigma stand in the way of care,” Koss said.

She said the human services department funds any opportunity for education.

One of the concerns brought to light during a survey was that the average visit to a psychiatrist for medication management is only five minutes. Koss said the board must look at what needs to be accomplished in a medication management session. Latronic pointed out there is a shortage of psychiatrists in the county.

Koss also noted “in lean times we must be efficient.” But she said the department will concentrate on early intervention in care of children and teens.

Latronic said the department is working to link services to the rest of the community.

Prior to the presentation by the mental health board, Freeholder Gail Phoebus presented a proclamation designating May “Mental Health Awareness Month,” to Mental Health Board Chair Lauren Hirtes.

The freeholders also appointed Richard A. Laruffa to a vacancy on the Sussex County Community College Board of Trustees.

Laruffa will fill the unexpired term of Patrick Aramini.

In his brief thank you to the board, Laruffa said, “I believe the community college system is even more important now than in the past."

County Administrator John Eskilson complimented the freeholders, past and present, for keeping the board of trustees’ search process “truly independent.”

During the public portion, Helen Wilson LeFrois of the SCCC Foundation Board told the freeholders her board and the trustees held their first joint retreat. She said the foundation is expanding its role from just fundraising to raising awareness of the college. She said the foundation board is seeking out of county participation, since students come from Warren County, as well as Pike and Monroe counties in Pennsylvania.


Follow The Alternative Press for Sussex County News and information, as well as news and information on The Alternative Press of Sussex County's Facebook Page.