Burlington County Commissioners Praise School Administrators for Joining Stigma-Free Initiative
Burlington County Commissioners’ efforts to make Burlington County a stigma-free county are garnering growing support.
The Burlington County Association of School Administrators announced its organization’s support for the stigma-free initiative, saying it will encourage local school boards across the county to pass a uniform resolution establishing their school districts as stigma-free zones. for mental health awareness, according to information provided on March 14.
Burlington County Commissioners passed a similar resolution designating Burlington County as a stigma-free county last September as a way to help people with mental illness or substance use disorders by raising awareness. and combating misconceptions about them, the statement said. The resolution makes it clear that the county recognizes the importance of education and awareness and that commissioners support local resources available to address mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
In addition to passing the resolution, commissioners created a Stigma-Free Task Force to develop actions that Burlington County and other local governments can consider taking to better engage and educate residents.
Burlington County Commissioner Felicia Hopson and New Jersey Senator Troy Singleton applauded the association’s support for ending stigma, describing it as “a major boost” that would encourage others to follow suit, according to the statement.
“Our council spoke loud and clear last fall when we launched our county’s stigma-free initiative, and pledged to work with residents and other stakeholders to break down the barriers that prevent people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse disorders to get the help they need,” Hopson, who is the council’s liaison for social services, said in the statement. “We also called on cities, nonprofits, businesses, and other entities in our county to join the initiative and help amplify the message. We are thrilled that the Burlington County Association of School Administrators decided to do so. No one dealing with mental illness or substance use disorders should feel alone, and the actions of the Association will help our schools and their students, together teachers and staff to feel supported and prepared to address all mental health issues.
“Ending the stigma around metal-related health issues and addiction is essential for those who need help to seek it,” Singleton said in the statement. “I commend Burlington County school administrators for joining our county leaders in ensuring our schools are stigma-free and safe spaces for our children.”
Stigma is a problem with many health conditions, but has been identified as particularly troublesome with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. These conditions are often misunderstood and people who suffer from them frequently report feeling ashamed or blamed for their conditions, according to the statement. This type of social stigma is one of the main reasons why many people do not seek treatment.
The resolution and the stigma-free task force are two of many steps the commissioners have taken to improve residents’ access to addiction treatment and other essential services.
Commissioners have expanded addiction services in the county by launching a recovery center at the Burlington County Social Services Building in Westampton. The center serves as a “one-stop-shop” destination where individuals can obtain peer support and information about treatment programs, recovery support services and community resources, according to the statement. The center also helps organize wellness activities and classes and hosts recovery groups like Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous.
The county has also launched a Hope One mobile outreach unit that travels to various locations around the county to help connect residents with recovery specialists and treatment facilities and to train people on how to administer a antidote in case of overdose. The unit is operated by the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department, Burlington County Social Services, and Burlington County Health Department, as well as staff from Virtua, Maryville, and the Deborah Heart and Lung Center.