Sunday, July 18, 2010

When Two Worlds Collide

Fans of Jerry Seinfeld may remember the Seinfeld television episode when George tried and failed to keep his two worlds separate. Like George, I try to keep my two worlds apart. In my case, it is my elected official life in Plainfield and and professional life as Executive Director of Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, Inc. A recent blog post by Assemblyman Jerry Green distorted my track record as a mental health professional and that of my employer, Bridgeway. To my Plainfield constituents - I wish to set the record straight.

Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services is a not for profit psychiatric rehabilitation service organization. We serve adults who have been diagnosed with serious mental illnesses, people whose psychiatric illnesses have been exacerbated by poverty and co-occurring substance abuse, chronic medical conditions and homelessness. Most of the people Bridgeway serves have spent time in state and local psychiatric in-patient units. State psychiatric hospitals are not humane environments and cost the taxpayer $180,000 per patient per year.

Bridgeway offers recovery, a new way of viewing and coping with serious mental illnesses. We offer a wrap around service that supports people to not only manage their symptoms and take their medications but to strive for a life worth living. That means working, going to school, having your own apartment and a circle of support comprised of family and friends - what everybody wants.

Bridgeway is part of a state-wide network of service providers who work with the state to help institutionalized people re-integrate into the community. Years ago it was believed that mental illness was a life sentence to be spent in an institution like Greystone Park or Trenton State Psychiatric Hospital. As treatment improved, it was believed that people could live in the community but in a group home or boarding house like the Park Hotel. Group homes cost the taxpayer $65,000 per year per resident and up. Today we've taken a big step further because the research clearly demonstrates that most people with serious mental illnesses can live independently with flexible supports. This approach, called supportive housing, is what Bridgeway specializes in.

Supportive housing costs the taxpayers $10,000 to $30,000 per year per person, depending on the complexity of the needs of the person served. Supportive housing as done by Bridgeway, is scattered site. That means each person has his/her own apartment and they are not clustered or in a congregate housing arrangement. Unlike the Park Hotel or a group home, that is true community integration. Bridgeway serves 1500 people each year, spanning 8 counties in central and northern New Jersey. Over 90% are in supportive housing. Some live with their families and a few live in places like the Park Hotel. We offer them the opportunity to move out into a more independent living arrangement. It's their choice.

Bridgeway believes choice is critical for service recipients and it is maximized by helping people find apartments in the existing rental market. That means properties are not taken off the tax rolls. The only exception Bridgeway made was when we purchased 4 two bedroom condomiums in Union County and 1 three bedroom house in Hunterdon County for use by our service recipients. To maximize choice, we did not purchase in the two urban centers, Elizabeth and Plainfield, because we felt that more living opportunities should be created in suburban areas. And those condo properties were taken off the tax rolls (Elizabeth and Plainfield were clearly doing more than their share to assist people with disabilities).

Supportive housing works because Bridgeway offers multi-disciplinary service teams that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to come out for home visits. One of these teams is based in Plainfield and rents office space on East Front Street. Most Plainfield residents are unaware of this because our community integration approach is working.

Bridgeway was recognized as mental health agency of the year in 2007 by our trade association, NJ Association of Mental Health Agencies, representing over 160 organizations. I was recognized as psychiatric rehabilitation agency director of the year in 2008 by the U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association.

Although Bridgeway is prominent in its field, Bridgeway and its service recipients are virtually invisible in the community and that is a good thing, considering the stigma that comes with mental illness. People with mental illnesses deserve the opportunity to become productive members of our communities and do not deserve to be stigmatized, especially by elected officials with political agendas.


Bob said...

Thank you for pointing out what you and your company do Councilor Storch. Mr. Green is notorious for his distortions, especially about how he lines his pockets and finds government jobs for all of his relatives. It's nice to see someone stand up to Mr. Green. He is not long for NJ and I'm sure will be replaced by a more positive force for our area.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it was important to make the distinction between group homes and supportive living services. I am saddened that you needed to make this distinction as a result of Mr. Green's erroneous and intentionally misleading comments. Working toward the good of Plainfield as a community need not come at the cost of personal attacks and petty rivalries. One wonders why it is so important to some to squash any voices of dissent or independent thinking in this town...

Anonymous said...

The Park Ave. Hotel seems like a pit. Why is this facility not either updated, knocked down, or removed from Plainfield? It does not seem like a humane place for anyone to live.

Anonymous said...

what is going on on the solar panel from UCIA? I heard they are 15% more expensive then if we bought them ourselves. This 15% will line the county's pockets. I hope the council wakes up and stops this.

Anonymous said...

On the Soslar Panels:

We have no actual concerns. Just questions that are unanswered. And we won't even tell you what these questions are.

Until these concerns are addressed, a through review is given, the new council takes seat, A CITIZEN'S COMMITTEE is created to review this, bids from 5 others are obtained, hell has frozen over, pigs are flying, and there is a blue moon,this must be put on hold.

Otherwise, I am all for it.

Anonymous said...

Many more questions are being surfaced on solar panels. Why the rush? More Union County municipalities are saying "no". Keep an eye in the news. This is bad for Plainfield - don't let them pull a quick one over us.

Anonymous said...

Watch out on the solar panels. There is a new generation of panels just around the corner. They will produce 4 times the solar energy for about 1/3rd the cost. If you buy these now, you will be locked into these soon-to-be-outdated ones for 15+ years. It is abad deal for us.

Cory Storch said...

To anonymous commenters on solar panels: I have received several comments urging me to not vote for the solar program resolution. It would help if you provided some facts in support of you position or positions if there are more than one of you. It would also help if you identify yourselves so we can have a constructive discussion of your concerns.