The Care Plus Foundation, Inc. will hold its 19th Annual Courage Awards Gala on May 10, 2017 at the Venetian in Garfield, benefiting the clients and programs of Care Plus NJ, Inc. (“CarePlus”). This year’s list of honorees includes the Bergen County Prosecutor, Gurbir S. Grewal, for his instrumental role in bringing Crisis Intervention Team (“CIT”) training to Bergen County and for his leadership in taking action to #StopTheODs.
The Gala celebrates those who work tirelessly on behalf of the mental health community. Proceeds fund educational scholarships, housing and medication assistance, substance abuse services, outpatient treatment and therapy for children and adults who are enrolled in CarePlus services, as well as advocacy and community education.
Prosecutor Grewal has been working actively to build connections between law enforcement and behavioral health professionals, which was clearly demonstrated by his commitment to CIT training. It is projected that his support will allow for over 100 Bergen County law enforcement officers to be trained by the end of 2017.
“We do a lot of work with law enforcement in our community,” explained Joe Masciandaro, CEO and President at CarePlus. “There has been tremendous growth over the years, but nothing like the transformation in Bergen County since the first CIT training. There is a new level of compassion, which is an essential component in working with the vulnerable individuals we serve.”
CIT is not only a training course, it is a community of partners that are helping to spread awareness and eliminate stigma against behavioral health challenges through education and advocacy. By creating an alliance between mental health and law enforcement professionals, the efforts of the CIT help first responders to better understand the struggle of navigating the mental health system so that they can improve linkage and access to services for those in the community (http://www.cit-nj.org/).
“The opioid epidemic hit Bergen County hard,” Masciandaro continued. “Our community has done a great job with the Stigma-Free initiative, but those struggling with addiction aren’t always seen through the lenses of chronic illness. The Prosecutor is helping to further destigmatize the disease of addiction by creating more opportunity for rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration for low-level drug offense.”
Authorities say that the CIT training is a major first step, but there is still work to be done. CarePlus has been working with local law enforcement and Integrity House, based out of Newark, to devise a plan that will focus on highly-motivated individuals seeking treatment for addiction. The Prosecutor recently announced his directive in developing the Heroin Addiction Recovery Team (HART) program.
Registration for the Courage Awards includes a cocktail hour, dinner, live and silent auctions, and a 50/50 raffle. Individual tickets are available at $175 each, with full tables of 10 offered for $1,500.