County Debuts New Mobile Outreach Unit for Youth Mental Health Support, Substance Abuse Prevention

WESTAMPTON, NJ – Burlington County has expanded its mental health and substance use prevention services with the launch of Hope One for Youth, a new mobile outreach unit that will specialize in serving county children and teens.

The unit made its debut at the Bring Health Home Resource Fair on Friday at the Burlington County Human Services Building. County officials described the addition as a gamechanger in the County’s fight against substance use and the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Mental health is an essential part of overall health and mental health challenges can impact all ages, including the youngest among us,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson, the liaison to the Department of Human Services. “Individuals with mental health conditions deserve support and care, not stigma and shame. Our Board is prioritizing bringing education and resources directly into our communities and schools to help those in need or at-risk where they are. Hope One for Youth reflects that commitment.”

Hope One for Youth will be staffed by specialists from the Burlington County Department of Human Services and the Burlington County Municipal Alliance and will travel to local schools, youth group meetings, houses of worship and community events to make presentations, distribute age-appropriate materials and educate teenagers, children and parents about mental health, substance use prevention, emotional well-being and stigma reduction.

Among the unit’s resources will be interactive tabletop games designed to teach topics such as conflict resolution, anger management and resiliency, as well as entertaining iPad games and apps focused on mindfulness and logic.

The unit is expected to be at the following upcoming events:

  • May 10: Pemberton Township High School Wellness Day
  • May 11: Lenape High School Lace Up Against Stigma 5K
  • June 7: Palmyra’s Charles Street School Fitness Day
  • June 8: Nickey’s Run at Mill Creek Road and Powell Road in Westampton

The Hope One for Youth unit is supported by a $300,000 federal grant that funded the acquisition and equipping of the Hope One for Youth van and its staffing. The unit was created as an expansion of the Hope One Mobile Outreach Unit run by the Burlington County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Department of Human Services, Health Department and staff from Virtua Health, Maryville Addiction Treatment Center and the Deborah Heart & Lung Center. Hope One regularly travels to different communities in the county to offer training on overdose antidote use, referrals to recovery services and other resources to individuals and families struggling with substance use disorders.

Last year more than 4,100 people were aided by the Hope One unit.

“Since its launch in 2019, Hope One has been a gamechanger in our fight against substance use by bringing resources to where people live and work. We expect Hope One for Youth will have the same kind of impact with our county’s children and teens,” said Commissioner Hopson.

State Senator Troy Singleton, who sponsored a new law requiring school-based mental health screenings and mental health support, said the expansion of the Hope One program will help meet a growing need for mental health services for children and teens.

A recent survey from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found nearly 50% of American adolescents had a mental health disorder at some point in their lives, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2021 an estimated 42% of American high school students struggled with feelings of sadness or hopelessness and one in five students thought about attempting suicide.

“The mental health of children and teens is a very real public health issue that demands us to take action and provide resources,” said Senator Singleton. “It is gratifying to see Burlington County take this step to expand access to education and support services that can help children and their parents recognize mental health symptoms and ways to address them. It also helps break down the stigma surrounding mental illness so that kids aren’t afraid or ashamed to reach out for help.”

Assemblyman Herb Conaway, who also helped write the school-based mental health screening bill, said the County’s new mobile unit would help children receive the mental health support they need.

“Most of the things that bring mental health challenges to people can be addressed with early identification and treatment, so I’m very pleased to see the County extend the reach of its services to get everywhere they can possibly be to find someone who might be suffering,” said Assemblyman Conaway.   

A comprehensive response to the opioid crisis

The Hope One expansion is part of the County’s comprehensive response to the opioid crisis. Those actions include the County Commissioners’ resolution declaring all of Burlington County to be stigma-free and creating a campaign to dispel misconceptions about substance use disorder and other mental illnesses. By eliminating stigma, the Commissioners hope to raise awareness and encourage more residents to seek the help needed to overcome their conditions.

More recently, the Commissioners authorized using opioid settlement funds to purchase Overdose Emergency kits for high schools and libraries in Burlington County. The kits are similar to wall-mounted automated external defibrillator cabinets but contain the overdose reversal drug Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan. 

More than 120 of the emergency kits have now been distributed to schools across the county, including those in the Lenape Regional High School District and the high schools in the Burlington County Special Services School District, Burlington Township, Bordentown Regional, Delran, Burlington City, Palmyra, Maple Shade, Willingboro and Rancocas Valley Regional districts.

Last summer, the Department of Human Services Behavioral Health and Addiction Services Division also teamed with the Burlington County Traumatic Loss Coalition and YMCA of the Pines in Medford to hold a free day-camp for children impacted by substance use disorder.

The camp program, known as Camp Cardinal, is expected to return this summer.

“Burlington County is fighting to beat back this epidemic, one life at a time. We’re making resources available and giving residents easy access to prevention tools and assistance,” said Hopson. “Substance use disorder is a disease that can be beaten and Burlington County is providing help, support and hope to those who are battling it.”

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