Democrats Host Virtual Panel on Healing and Recovery
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
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 www.emmafornjsenate.com.