On Tuesday evening, July 27th, at 7:00 PM, the Democratic team of Mammano, Kono and Quilter for Legislative District 10 hosted a virtual panel discussion on Healing and Recovery in the Post-Pandemic World. One of the candidates’ platform issues is to increase services for mental health and substance abuse. Mammano and her Assembly running mates want to serve as leaders who understand that the demand for these services has risen drastically over the past year and a half.
Attending the panel were Leisha Thompson, Liza Kelly and Priscilla Robinson. Thompson is a therapist in private practice and VP of Adult Services with Preferred Behavioral Health. Thompson spoke about the difficulties faced by seriously mentally ill clients during the pandemic, when they were even more isolated than usual. She also referred to the spike in opiate overdoses this past year, and pointed to the lack of resources for those looking to improve their lot, such as housing for the homeless, and tuition assistance for people in recovery.
Kelly, a healthcare worker at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and mother of two teenagers,
has been in recovery for ten years. She described her journey as a young mother whose addiction began with a prescription to pain killers for back pain. What had started with pills progressed to heroin within a span of five years. Kelly attended some detoxification programs in New Jersey but was unsuccessful in achieving sobriety. Kelly eventually went away to a drug rehab program in Florida for thirty days, which was the beginning of her recovery.
When asked about her experience with detox programs in New Jersey, Kelly felt Florida had more
resources than New Jersey. “A three-day detox is a joke,” Kelly said, explaining the need for a more comprehensive approach to the detoxification process. “It [the addictions treatment programs in Florida] is just a well-oiled machine, and it just doesn’t seem like we have that here.” Despite the faults she finds with New Jersey’s resources for those recovering from addictions, Kelly lauded the Intensive Outpatient Program she attended for four months when she returned from Florida.
Robinson, a community organizer with a grassroots organization called New Jersey Organizing Project (NJOP), talked about substance use disorders being “a bigger problem” than how an addict is affected on a personal level, citing the economic and social issues surrounding drug addiction. In 2019 NJOP took up the mantle to fight for an increase in resources and an improvement in the quality of those resources for substance abuse treatment, such as expanded access to Naloxone and medically assisted treat- ments. NJOP also wants to hold the state government accountable, to make sure that money coming into the state to prevent and treat substance abuse disorders is going to the right places.
During the Q&A portion of the panel event, one viewer asked about how mental health services could be improved in schools. Thompson noted that the helpful services provided by school-based programs prevent more severe problems later in life. Mammano agreed; “In the long run, school-based programs save society a great deal of money, right?”
Another question involved the conflicts surrounding the COVID vaccination. Thompson and Kelly
agreed that education is key in getting a greater percentage of the population vaccinated. After final remarks, Mammano closed with, “Tony, Sharon and I feel extremely passionate about being in a position to get more help for people as representatives at the state level for Legislative District 10.”
Legislative District 10 includes the towns of Bay Head, Brick, Island Heights, Lakehurst, Lavallette, Manchester, Mantoloking, Point Pleasant Beach, Toms River and Seaside Heights. To learn more about the campaign visit http://www.emmafornjsenate.com.