Middlesex County’s Otlowski Center for Mental Health Care adapts to offer critical services during the pandemic
Center offers key mental wellness tips in light of
Mental Health Awareness Month in May
MIDDLESEX COUNTY – The George J. Otlowski, Sr. Center for Mental Health Care is one of the last community mental health facilities in the State of New Jersey, and during the COVID-19 pandemic it has continued to operate without disruption, providing critical services to the community. In fact, it expanded its staff of more than 45 licensed mental health professionals to meet the growing needs of Middlesex County residents in this uncertain time. Like many organizations, the Center pivoted to provide seamless services by digitizing its intake forms; offering extensive telehealth services — including therapy sessions, medication management services, psychiatric evaluations, and more; offering a comprehensive list of financial resources; and creating a dedicated COVID-19 support group. With the pandemic still raging on in the country and around the world, the crisis is adversely affecting the mental health of every resident in the community – and the Otlowski Center is available to help.
“Besides the core CDC guidelines for COVD-19 safety, what’s equally important to be mindful of is our mental health during this ongoing pandemic,” said Ronald G. Rios, Director of the Board of County Commissioners. “While we know social distancing and other rules are keeping us safe, it is also impeding on our human need to feel connected, and this lack of connection is starting to impact individuals in a number of ways. The services offered by the Otlowski Center are crucial during this time. The Board of County Commissioners continues to fund and prioritize mental health care in our County.”
In light of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the Otlowski Center recommends the following key tips to support mental health:
- Find time to disconnect from day-to-day life. This includes simply disconnecting digitally, as the pandemic has forced everyone to be digitally tethered. Instead, read an adventurous book, take a walk in the park — preferably one that is different, try a new recipe, start coloring – anything to break your routines.
- Connect with family and friends any way you can. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but not during a pandemic. It is important that people find new ways to connect with family and friends – if there’s Zoom fatigue, try writing letters or sending postcards via the U.S. Postal Service. Writing letters is a lost art and the anticipation of receiving letters is exciting.
- Avoid social media. Social media can be misleading not only because of people posting exaggerated lifestyles, but also because fake news and hearsay are rampant. During this COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative that residents get news and information from credible sources such as major newspapers to stay educated and empowered.
- Set clear boundaries from work. Working from home has helped keep employees safe but it has also blurred the lines between work life and home life, making people feel they are “always on.” It is key for workers to set boundaries, making a clear break from work by shutting down work-related technology (if possible) at the end of the workday and beginning their home life.
- Treat yourself. The pandemic has asked a lot of people. From helping elderly loved ones to homeschooling small children, everyone has been asked to give more of themselves to others. It is key that individuals focus on self-care, which can come in many forms. Whether it is doing something nice for oneself (e.g., a relaxing bubble bath, online shopping, etc.); exercising; just getting some alone time; or taking care of one’s health by visiting doctors for regular check-ups – thinking of oneself should not be confused with being selfish.
“No one is immune to mental health issues, whether you suffer from a serious, chronic illness or are experiencing periodic anxiety from the daily stress of COVID-19,” said Jim Cunningham, Executive Director, George J. Otlowski, Sr. Center for Mental Health Care. “At our Center we are fighting to end the stigma of mental health in New Jersey. We have seen individuals seeking assistance for COVID-19 burnout who had never sought out mental healthcare services prior to the pandemic, it is affecting everyone. And we want the community to know we are here to provide much-needed hope and guidance to navigate these difficult times.”
“Mental health is crucial to our overall well-being, and the Board of County Commissioners recognizes the importance of providing necessary services to our community to ensure they have a place to go when in personal crisis or in need of psychological consultation,” said Clary Azcona-Barber, County Commissioner and Chair of Community Services Committee. “The County has championed and supported the Otlowski Center since its inception, and we will continue to commit funds and resources to enhance its services.”
The George J. Otlowski, Sr. Center for Mental Health Care is a comprehensive community mental health center sponsored by the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners. The more than 50-year-old Center has an Outpatient Department, Partial Care Program, and Medical Unit. They offer treatment for a wide range of emotional disorders, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, marital and family issues, and other problems related to daily life. The Center serves Middlesex County residents ages 5 and up. The staff consists of experienced mental health and substance abuse professionals, including social workers, psychologists, professional counselors, rehabilitation counselors, psychiatrists, and nurses. In October 2019, the Otlowski Center partnered with Hackensack Meridian Health to enhance its management, provide more coordinated care and robust services as part of the network’s comprehensive strategy to improve behavioral health care throughout New Jersey.
For more information and for mental health services, please call 732-442-1666 ext. 2089.
MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ
Middlesex County is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies, three universities, 18 park systems, and world-class healthcare and research facilities making it one of the nation’s most dynamic regions and a leader in technology, transportation, the arts, and food innovation. As one of the most diverse populations in the country, Middlesex County is home to over 832,000 residents living throughout 25 municipalities and employing nearly 40,000 people. Ranked #1 in the state for best schools, the County offers an award-winning vocational school system, a county college, and workforce development creating a unique ecosystem in which opportunities abound. Conveniently located between New York and Philadelphia, Middlesex County is a leading destination for businesses and residents alike to live, work, and play – and has been since the 17th century. For more information, visit middlesexcountynj.gov and find us on Facebook and Instagram.