The Mental Health Association in Southwestern New Jersey (MHASWNJ) is the local chapter of the New Jersey Division of Mental Health America. Founded in 1956 this chapter originated in Camden County, but expanded to include Burlington and Gloucester Counties in 1986. The MHASWNJ works to create a community where individuals with mental illness can live and participate to their fullest potential. We pursue our mission through advocacy, education and training, and supportive services.
The MHASWNJ is working to raise public awareness and to improve the public’s understanding and behavior towards mental health and mental illness. Our educational programs help to build a stronger community by reducing the fear of mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it. We are working to educate the public on the treatment and support programs that are available to them within their immediate community. We offer classroom presentations for high school and college classes designed to increase students’ awareness and understanding of mental illness. In addition, we provide in-service training opportunities for staff of community mental health centers, hospitals, and educators. Our Crisis Intervention Team Center of Excellence provides law enforcement officers, mental health professionals and advocates with intensive training to respond to citizens experiencing a behavioral crisis.
The MHASWNJ is a voice for people who have mental illness. Through advocacy, the MHASWNJ influences public policy and programs affecting the lives of the individual and their families. We work with the public policy staff of Mental Health America and the Mental Health Association of NJ to advocate for better treatment of children; for services that divert people with mental illnesses from prison to treatment; for improved conditions and treatment at state psychiatric hospitals; for safe affordable housing; a system of managed care that provides access to quality treatment; and the expansion and provision of community mental health programs. We advocate for sufficient resources to be available to help people learn how to live productively within society.
The MHASWNJ is working to provide and maintain innovative, high quality support services for individuals and families affected by mental illness. The CAMWERCS program offers vocational counseling to assist mentally ill youth and young adults in identifying their vocational goals. Through classroom instruction, individual counseling, guest speakers and field trips, the program provides youth with an opportunity to develop skills and values necessary for entering the workforce. Upon completion of the program, the youth are placed in part time employment in the community.
The WORKSRITE program offers vocational counseling and supported employment to adults who have psychiatric disabilities and assists them in maintaining and sustaining meaningful and competitive work.
LEARN is a supported education program offered to individuals with serious mental illnesses who are enrolled or wish to enroll in a post secondary educational setting. Services include assistance in applying to schools, applying for financial aid, selecting and registering for courses, requesting reasonable accommodations, study skills, coaching and developing linkages to existing supports and resources.
The MHASWNJ provides weekly support groups, leadership councils, outings and other recreational activities for 60 adults who have a mental illness and who reside in six socially isolated boarding homes. In addition, the MHASWNJ sends the Peer Outreach Support Team (POST) to provide peer counseling, pet therapy and recreational activities for residents of 3 other boarding homes who are unable to attend activities at the self-help center.
The MHASWNJ offers a Self Help Wellness Center for mental health consumers who reside in the City of Camden. The purpose of the Center is to provide social, recreational, educational and supportive services.
The MHASWNJ provides Family Advocates at the Burlington County and Camden County Psychiatric Crisis Screening Centers for families whose children/adolescents are in psychiatric crisis. Trained advocates provide a listening ear, as well as information regarding the children’s mental health system for parents and other family members accompanying loved ones to the crisis center.
The MHASWNJ Board of Directors is comprised of 19 community leaders who live and work throughout Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties. The MHASWNJ employs 15 full time and 8 part time staff. The MHASWNJ is a community based organization which maximizes its resources by utilizing volunteers and collaboration with other human services agencies.
Ninety percent of the MHASWNJ programs are funded through county, state and federal contracts and the United Way of Camden County. Other sources include fund raising events and individual contributions.
The MHASWNJ main office is in Haddon Heights with a Self Help Center in Camden.