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New Program will Support Hispanic Families Caring for a Relative with a Mental Illness

MERCERVILLE, N.J. – October 28, 2002 – The New Jersey Mental Health Institute, Inc. (NJMHI) and NAMI NEW JERSEY announced today that they have secured funding from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to introduce and implement NAMI’s Family-to-Family program in Spanish in six counties (10 sites overall) in New Jersey: Hudson, Passaic, Essex, Union, Middlesex, and Bergen.  The Family-to-Family Program is a 12-week educational program for family members of a person with a severe mental illness.

            “I am extremely pleased that SAMHSA is providing us with such an opportunity and look forward to making a positive difference in the lives of Hispanic families caring for a relative with mental illness,” said the NJMHI project director.

            “Studies have shown that the Family-to-Family Program has been helpful in reducing the stress and burden often associated with caring for a mentally ill relative and in educating family members about mental illness and resources available to them. Unfortunately, New Jersey Hispanic families have not had the opportunity to benefit from this program in Spanish in the past. Soon, this will be changing,” added the NJMHI project director.

            According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s report, “Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity”, a supplement to the Surgeon General’s 1999 report on mental health, “Cultural differences must be accounted for to ensure that minorities, like all Americans, receive mental health care tailored to their needs.”

            “The Institute has been sensitive to the mental health needs of Hispanics since its inception, as evidenced by one of its initial projects, Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics. We are pleased to be able to not only continue to identify the mental health needs of the Hispanic community, but to also implement effective intervention strategies to address those needs,” said Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., executive director, NJMHI.

“Hispanic families are no different than any others. They too need support and education about issues that impact their lives.  Providing such a valuable program in Spanish, a language that many Hispanics either feel more comfortable in, or is the only language they know, is a tremendous asset and contribution to the Hispanic community,” said the NJMHI project director.

            NJMHI is collaborating with NAMI NEW JERSEY, the state affiliate office of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, to ensure proper implementation of NAMI’s Family-to-Family Program and to create a more effective and efficient service delivery system.

            “Hispanic families have a right to learn more about mental illness, how it affects their loved ones and how they can be more supportive and productive in the care of that family member. We are pleased to be able to introduce this program in Spanish to some communities in the State of New Jersey with a high population of Hispanics through this grant award.  We are hopeful that one day we will be able to implement these services statewide,” said Sylvia Axelrod, executive director, NAMI NEW JERSEY.

            The new project, which was identified as a need through the NJMHI’s Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics project, will be entitled Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics/NAMI NEW JERSEY Family-to-Family Program. Initial project activities call for NJMHI to first work with community leaders and stakeholders in each of the target communities to build consensus on both the importance of providing this educational service, as well as the structure in which the program intervention has been envisioned. 

For more information on the project or for interviews with Dr. Debra Wentz, please call NJMHI at (609) 838-5488, ext. 292.

The New Jersey Mental Health Institute, Inc. (NJMHI), an outgrowth of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies (NJAMHA), is a private nonprofit charitable organization based in Mercerville, New Jersey. The Institute was established in July 2000 to promote quality mental health services through training, technical assistance, research and policy development.  Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics aims to address the nationwide lack of access to and quality of mental health and behavioral health services for Hispanics by better understanding the belief systems, attitudes and barriers facing the at-risk Hispanic population in need of mental health services, implementing creative and effective strategies to address identified barriers, and heightening awareness, acceptance and understanding of mental illness among the Hispanic population.

NAMI NEW JERSEY is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families who are affected by mental illness. NAMI NEW JERSEY provides education, support and systems advocacy to empower families and persons with mental illness. Affiliate self-help and grassroots advocacy groups located in each county offer emotional support, information and advice about treatment and community resources.