Confronting the stigma of addiction, mental health

Posted: May. 25, 2017 12:01 am

With heroin addiction and substance abuse verging on what many increasingly are coming to view as a public health crisis, a coalition of public health officials, law enforcement and civic leaders is taking shape in an effort to end the discrimination and negative attitudes many say are preventing people with drug addiction and related mental health issues from seeking treatment.

The “stigma-free” initiative, which was announced earlier this month at a forum on the campus of Saint Clare’s Health in Denville, was attended by state Sen. Steve Oroho and Sparta Police Chief Neil Spidaletto and about 75 other officials and civic leaders from throughout Saint Clare’s home region of Sussex and Morris counties.

The movement coincides with National Mental Health Awareness Month and aims, in the short term, to enlist municipalities throughout the region as “stigma-free communities.” The hope is that doing so will be a first step toward facilitating expanded access to treatment programs and, beyond that, to related services needed for those completing treatment to make a successful transition back into mainstream society.

Sparta last month became the first community in Sussex County to sign on to the “stigma-free” initiative. To date, three communities in Morris County — Boonton Township, Dover and Mountain Lakes — have passed resolutions of support as well.

Sparta Councilwoman Christine Quinn — who introduced the proposal to her colleagues on the Township Council, where it passed unanimously last month — suggested doing so was a symbolic milestone in what she hopes will be a turning point in people’s attitudes on the subject.

Quinn specifically credited Spidaletto, the police chief — along with Brian Hassloch, a detective in the police department, and Nicole Reina, a public health nurse and member of the township’s public safety commission — with assisting her in shepherding the initiative’s…

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