New Program Offers Aid For Clergy Addressing Congregant Mental Health Challenges

Area faith leaders can access assistance from trained clinicians when congregants come to them with complex mental health or substance abuse issues through the Mental Health Association of Morris County’s newest program- the Mental Health Faith Liaison Program.


The program also offers clergy and congregations education on mental health and assistance to impoverished community members suffering from mental illness through the Mental Health Faith Resource Network.


“Clergy often are on the front lines in addressing mental health and substance abuse challenges,” said Lou Schwarcz, president and CEO of the MHAMC. “Our innovative Mental Health Faith Liaison Program gives clergy the tools and resources to address mental health issues, directly at their houses of worship, in a speedy, direct and effective manner.”


Congregations in the Mental Health Faith Resource Network help to provide donations of goods such as household items, bicycles and shoes, to needy community members in recovery from mental illness, and are therefore eligible for up to three hours of clinical assistance at the house of worship when a mental health issue arises with a congregant. The clinician will work with clergy to offer the congregant immediate intervention and also guidance on how and where to obtain further support to resolve the issue. Clinicians will be paid from the Mental Health Faith Support Fund.


“We are grateful to our funders, Atlantic Health System and The Pink House Foundation, for providing the seed funding to launch this unique program,” said Schwarcz.


Dr. Michael Gerardi, chair of Morristown Medical Center’s Community Health Committee and practicing emergency physician said, “Like emergency physicians and other health care providers, clergy are often faced with people experiencing acute crisis on a daily basis.  The Mental Health Faith Liaison Program is a novel approach that will help support the clergy who are asking for our help and expertise to serve their congregants.”


The Mental Health Faith Liaison Program also offers training programs to educate members of the faith community about mental health issues. Mental Health First Aid, an internationally recognized, evidence based eight hour training program that teaches participants to identify signs of mental illness and appropriate methods to offer aid to someone experiencing a mental health crisis, will be offered several times throughout the year.


The MHAMC also will be forming an Interfaith Clergy Peer Group for clergy members to help one another in addressing the unique challenges that clergy face in their professional roles.


Clergy and congregations interested in participating in the Mental Health Faith Liaison Program should contact Madine Despeine, director of Self-Help, Advocacy, and Education at 973-334-3496 x111 or


The MHAMC is a community-based, non-profit organization that has been serving people with mental illness, their families and the community at large since 1953. Its mission is to promote mental health and to support and empower people in recovery from mental illness through effective services, education, and advocacy.

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