“Celebrating Social Work Month: A Noble Profession”
Many years ago, when I was trying to figure out what would be a good fit for me as a career, I will acknowledge that being a “social worker” wasn’t something that sprung to mind as a vital and dynamic career pathway. Once I really started to move past the old stereotypes about social work that I had in my head, I realized I was simply dead wrong.
I had spent most of my adolescence (once I got past my desire to be a working musician- too hard and arduous a journey for a teenager with my limited talents) planning to become a constitutional lawyer. That, too, turned out to be too disciplined and dry for me, so my notion of heading to law school and becoming a crusading attorney vaporized as I was leaving college. As some of you may recall from earlier columns of mine, I ended up drifting into social work after working with troubled kids as a music counselor at a long-term residential facility. Things began to crystalize for me after a few years there, and I discovered that the possibilities inherent in a career in social work were exactly what made sense for someone who wanted to commit to a life of service. The following, as evidence:
“If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.”
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”
As I began to explore getting a graduate degree in social work, I found that I knew much less about social work than I thought I did. I knew the foundational basics, of course: the “friendly visitor” model from the development period of casework (1880-1900) with a template based on individualized personal outreach; the processing and service vision developed in the wake of social security and public entitlements (the dystopian view of huge offices with rows and rows of “social workers” – all women, in gray, stamping applications) and then, of course the workers who removed children from their families for substantiated abuse, seen by some as the manifesting the overreach of the “nanny state.” Some foundation in reality, perhaps, but for the most part just an ignorant and uniformed notion of what “social work” was (and is) about.
By the time I entered grad school, I realized that social work is as expansive as the field of “health and human services” itself is limitless. There are those (like me) who chose to become clinical social workers (this replaced the antiquated term “psychiatric social worker”) who studied diagnosis and treatment through various kinds of talk therapy and there are those who chose to work with kids with cancer on pediatric oncology wards in hospitals. Our network of private non-profit partners is filled with social workers who perform a wide variety of functions in all kinds of settings (group homes, advocacy organizations, domestic violence focused agencies, and so many more). The field has changed a good deal in my time- for example; prior to 1994 there were no licensure credentials in NJ, with only a national exam for clinical acumen administered and certified by the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW). We are certainly a more credentialed and diverse group than my early imaginings envisioned.
This description (gleaned from NASW – our national association) of the profession sums up the connection between the aspirational quotes I noted earlier and the “work” of social work itself:
“As practitioners, social workers are trained to help people address personal and systemic barriers to optimal living. They are employed to effect positive change with individuals, families, groups and entire communities. As a profession, social workers frequently use their collective power to pass laws and establish policies that give more people access to community services and benefits, improving the quality of life for everyone. Social work is the only helping profession which requires social justice advocacy as part of its professional code of ethics and is therefore a large workforce mandated to advance the rights of the most vulnerable in society. For more than 120 years, the social work profession in the United States has helped bend the arc of justice, making our nation a more equitable and inclusive place.”
Having spent 30 years in clinical practice and the last 7 as a department head in county government, I have tried to both “bend the arc” and promote equitability and inclusivity with every fiber of my being. Most social workers do, since as Lily Tomlin has observed: “I was (that) somebody.”
Help us celebrate social work month---and the social workers the month celebrates. We hope to feature some of these dedicated folks in our next issue. For now, let’s keep moving towards light, towards health, and towards a time in the not too distant future where hugs can be a part of the celebration.
Best Practices in Juvenile Justice: Credible Messengers
By Gayle Kaufman, MA Senior Program Coordinator, Juvenile Institutional Services
In December 2019, the Annie E. Casey Foundation published a blog called From the Field: Four Ways to Transform Juvenile Justice Now, featuring video presentations that address four emerging areas of juvenile justice practice — youth partnership, credible messengers, restorative justice and healing youth trauma. The talks were recorded before a live audience at Casey’s 2019 Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI®) Inter-Site Conference and will be presented as a series in our Human Services newsletter over the next few months.
Second in our series is the topic of credible messengers. The Credible Messenger Justice Center explains on their website https://cmjcenter.org/: “The Credible Messenger movement is emerging based on a holistic, comprehensive approach to justice that transforms and improves individual lives, rearranges the relationship between communities and the justice system, and empowers neighborhoods to use the resources they have within to maintain public safety. Using this people-up perspective, the Credible Messenger approach seeks to build trust and inspire change from within communities so that they can feel positive about possibilities rather than facing a future of frustration. Credible Messengers are mentors who have passed through the justice system and sustainably transformed their lives. Often Returned Citizens (previously incarcerated) and others with similarly relevant experiences, want to give back to help others. Their life experience provides them with a special ability to connect with younger, justice-involved people.”
At the 2019 JDAI Inter-Site Conference, Antonio Fernandez was invited to share his insights in this area. In addition to his role as a leader of the credible messenger initiative with the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, “Fernandez — once a leader of the Latin Kings street gang in New York City — now dedicates himself to helping D.C.-based, justice-involved youth heal and reflect on their decisions. In addition to working in neighborhoods, Fernandez and other credible messengers support youth who are in secure confinement a local facility. Fernandez challenges systems to open their doors to credible messengers to connect with young people who may be hard to reach: ‘Entrust us to do what you can’t do.’”
Somerset County 4-H
March 17 - April 21, 6:30pm-7:30pm, Open to the Public in Grades 4-6
Spend some more time exploring the outdoors with the 'Bird Nerd' STEP Club. Share six weeks of exploring the fascinating world of our avian friends with other kids from all around New Jersey. Activities include scavenger hunts, nature-themed arts and crafts, wildlife camera observation, DIY bird feeder creations, and bird identification!
March 14, 7:00pm
Join the Essex and Hudson County Teen Leadership Council for the statewide Movie Night where you'll be watching 'Kiss the Ground.' Narrated by Woody Harrelson, learn how activities, scientists, farmers and politicians turn to regenerative agriculture to save the planets topsoil.
March 24, 7:00pm-8:30pm, Open to the Public in Grades 6-12
Focused on fun, interactive games - join the Somerset County 4-H Association Teen Committee for their monthly Virtual Teen Social. Open to teens in grades 6-12, this is a great way to meet new people and make some friends while playing games both online and on your phone.
March 27, 8:45am-12:00pm
Register today to learn about animal care, behavior, training, breeding, showmanship, and more through three interactive sessions that you choose! Our experts will engage both youth and adults through live demonstrations, discussions, illustrated talks, and games.
Various Events Throughout the Year
Register today to learn about animal care, behavior, training, breeding, showmanship, and more through three interactive sessions that you choose! Our experts will engage both youth and adults through live demonstrations, discussions, illustrated talks, and games.
Posting on Various Dates
Experience the outdoors or learn how to lead a healthier and active lifestyle through our catalogue of weekly blogs. Focused on 4-H and youth education, our well-written posts capture the heart of adventure, exploration, and leadership that youth can find in their own backyard and community.
Family & Community Health Sciences
Every Tuesday and Friday
Join FCHS this February as we cover a variety of delicious heart healthy recipes every Tuesday at 12pm and Friday at 11am on Facebook Live. With a focus on nutrition and wellness, these free classes are live and encourage engagement and questions.
Every Wednesday Afternoon
Covering a variety of topics related to food, nutrition, and healthy lifestyles - Wellness Wednesdays with FCHS brings the knowledge of experts from across New Jersey to provide free, online and educational webinars.
Available 24/7 on YouTube
Visit the FCHS YouTube channel ‘Somerset County Family & Community Health Sciences’ for an engaging mix of videos covering a wide variety of dishes, meals, cultures, and information. This is a great way to learn a new meal or explore your health and wellness at your own pace.
Available Upon Request
FCHS is able to provide free, online classes and lessons for community groups, schools, and early care sites. Our classes cover a variety of topics that involve nutrition, health, and wellness for all ages.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Trained Rutgers Master Gardeners of Somerset County are here to help you with your lawn and garden questions. Although offices are still closed to the public, we are accepting questions via our helpline email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Designed to offer "something for everyone," Home Gardeners School is made up of 40 individual workshop sessions covering a wide array of horticulture topics. This format allows you to select the workshops that are most relevant to your gardening interests to create your own unique, customized schedule for this fun day of learning.
March 16, Starting at 7:00pm
This class will discuss the various methods of pruning small trees and shrubs, the time of year certain plants should be pruned and how proper pruning can produce a healthier, more attractive and longer-lived plant.
Check out the Rutgers NJAES Home, Lawn, and Garden website for a variety of information including upcoming events covering topics like home landscaping, local wildlife, Fall gardening, and more. The page also has links to a bounty of great, free resources to take advantage of.
Alternatives, Inc. provides a variety of services, to approximately 500 individuals, in Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon, Warren, Ocean, Monmouth, Morris, Union and Mercer Counties. The agency was founded in 1979 to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live in community-based settings rather than in institutions. A short time later, the agency expanded to offer similar services to adults with mental illness and substance use diagnoses, in addition to individuals and families who are homeless. These services include housing, case management, day habilitation and supported employment. The agency also provides supported employment services to the deaf and hard of hearing population.
Among the agency’s proficiencies is the Community Support Services (CSS) program, which offers assistance to individuals who have mental health diagnoses, are 18 years or older, and are living in Somerset County. Services are provided by a team of Licensed Clinicians and Case Management staff who utilize a person-centered approach to help clients develop individualized goals and services focused on wellness and recovery. Services assist the clients to gain insight into their lives, and to learn ways to achieve enhanced wellness and independence. Alternatives’ staff provide services such as: clinical counseling, psycho-education, skill building assistance, money management, and linkage to community resources, medical providers, and other mental health services. The Community Support Services program assists clients in achieving the necessary skills to sustain independence, as well as recover from symptoms of mental illness. Services are flexible and can be enhanced as needed or requested. Staff meet with clients in the community, including in their homes or virtually, allowing a more holistic approach. The Community Support Services program bills Medicaid or receives funding from the state so the individuals do not have to pay for their service. CSS can help young adults who are preparing to transition into the adult system of care. Individuals are required to have a mental health diagnosis for program eligibility. However, they can have other diagnoses as well.
For those who require housing, affordable and shared-living options are available in Somerset County. Alternatives is a licensed, accredited and approved Medicaid provider.
For more information about the Community Support Services program, please contact Heather Bielefeldt, LAC, Director of Community Relations and Admissions at: email@example.com.
FREE VIRTUAL CERTIFICATE PROGRAMS
Pre-Purchase and Financial LiteracyCentral Jersey Housing Resource Center Corp. (CJHRC) is introducing our newly created webinars for pre-purchase and financial literacy. CJHRC is the only HUD certified housing counseling agency in Somerset County and all of our programs and services are FREE to clients.
Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Do you have funds when an emergency arises, like COVID? Have you been turned down for a loan or credit card? If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, you should register for CJHRC’s FREE Financial Literacy virtual webinar. Participants will learn about fair housing and their rights, budgeting, tracking expenses, credit scoring, how to dispute errors on a credit report, way to obtain savings, and more. Participants are offered a FREE tri-merge credit report after signing an authorization form and can review it with a counselor. Before registration is finalized, attendees must submit documentation and complete a counseling session by March 5, 2020. Contact CJHRC at 908-446-0037 if you want to sign up for this webinar and start working on your goal of becoming financially stable in 2021.
Accepted individuals/households must submit documents and work with a counselor each month doing budgeting and tracking expenses and proof of their savings deposit of $25 a month. Enrolled participants cannot increase their debt. Completing CJHRC’s Financial Literacy course is a requirement of the program. If you apply within 60 days of the March 10, 2020 Financial Literacy virtual webinar (May 10, 2020), you would have satisfied one requirement of the program. At the end of the 12-month period and once all criteria is met, clients would have saved $300 and CJHRC will match those funds with $900 towards a financial goal that was specified at the beginning of the program. Find out more about this unique program by calling a CJHRC counselor at 908-446-0037.
Thinking of purchasing a home in the next 12 months? Did you know that most First Time Homebuyer Mortgages require Homebuyer Education and proof of same (a certificate from an approved Housing Counseling Agency)? CJHRC offers this counseling numerous ways. One of the most popular ways to get your certificate is to register for this FREE 2-day webinar. You will hear from local professionals covering topics relating to Fair Housing, Money Management, Credit, Getting a Mortgage Loan, Insurance, the importance of retaining a Real Estate Attorney, Home Inspection & 10 Important Questions to Ask, Low/Moderate Income Program, grant opportunities and more. Attendees must submit documentation and complete approximately 60 minutes of one-on-one counseling with a CJHRC counselor on or before April 2, 2021 in order to get the invitation link for the April webinar sessions. Once all criteria is met, participants will receive a certificate valid for one year. Contact CJHRC at 908-446-0037 if you have questions or to sign up and begin your journey towards homeownership!
CJHRC’s counseling services are FREE, and counselors can be reached at 908-446-0036 Monday – Friday from approximately 9-5. Please visit our website at www.cjhrc.org and click on the Housing Resource Center tab to view resources. Please follow us on FaceBook (Central Jersey Housing Resource Center) or Instagram (cjhrc_housing) where announcements about resources, services and tips are posted regularly.
Community Development Funding Opportunity
By Kimberly Cowart, Somerset County Community Development Director
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME and Homelessness Trust Fund (HTF) Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are posted on the County website at the following link: https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/government/finance-and-administrative-services/purchasing/list-rfp/-sortn-RFPClosing/-sortd-desc; .
The Community Development Office has administrative responsibility for these grant programs and in that capacity, manages the application and fund allocation processes. To simplify the application process and because they are both housing programs, the HOME and HTF Programs use the same RFP document. Once grant funds are awarded by committees that meet in April and May, staff will work with grant recipients to ensure that funds are spent in compliance with the respective guidelines. As your organization considers submitting a grant application, please keep the following information in mind:
CDBG and HOME Income Limits
The CDBG Program is a federal grant to Somerset County from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Grant funds must be used toward non-profit and municipally-sponsored construction and housing projects and human service programs that principally benefit low and moderate income families or individuals. In addition to the income limits that are listed above, CDBG and HOME funds can also be used for projects that principally benefit abused children, Elderly persons (62 and over), Homeless persons, Migrant farm workers, Illiterate persons, Disabled adults (disabled children do not automatically qualify under this criteria), Persons with AIDS, and Battered spouses.
The HOME Investment Partnership Program is also a federal grant to Somerset County from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Grant funds must be used to expand the supply of decent, safe, sanitary, and affordable housing for low and moderate income families or individuals. It is also important to note that HOME funds have an Affordability Period that that can range from 5-20 years, depending on the amount of assistance and the nature of the project. During this time, the assisted units must be occupied by income-eligible residents and Community Development Office staff will come out to inspect the property and review client files.
The Homelessness Trust Fund is a dedicated fund that accrues from the collection of a $3 surcharge on the fee to record or release documents that are processed by the County Clerk’s Office. Funds must be used to create permanent affordable housing and/or provide services or rental assistance for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness. Housing that is assisted by the Homelessness Trust Fund is subject to a thirty-year Affordability Period, during which the assisted units must be occupied by income-eligible residents and Community Development Office staff will come out to inspect the property and review client files.
If you have questions about any of these grant programs or eligibility for a proposed project, please contact the Community Development Office at 908-541-5756. All of the applications are due on March 24, 2021.
United Way of Northern New Jersey Is Working Toward a More Equitable World
United Way of Northern New Jersey serves Somerset, Morris, Sussex, Warren and suburban Essex County. At United Way, we believe that by securing racial and economic equity for ALICE we can improve life for all. ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents our essential workforce. These workers are critical to keeping our economy and households running, yet do not earn enough to afford their family’s basic needs.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 37% of households in our state were unable to afford the basics for survival. The strength of our economy and community is at risk when so many families live paycheck to paycheck, one emergency from financial disaster. United Way is working toward a future where essential workers can afford to save for an emergency, access health care and give their children a quality, reliable early education.
We’re investing in ALICE’s future in the workplace, at home, and across the community. Here’s how:
· Workplace Innovation: We are building a stronger workforce by advancing ALICE-friendly workplace policies and standards.
· Individual and Family Success: We are creating paths to financial independence through free tax preparation and other services that help families build careers and personal wealth.
· Community Connections: We are preventing children from falling behind and family caregivers from emotional, physical, and financial collapse.
And we are making strides! In the past year we have provided critical assistance that is keeping families from financial ruin. Check out some of our results:
· 1,000 children received quality early education, giving parents peace of mind so they can focus on their work
· 2,200 unpaid family caregivers were connected to resources and education allowing them to safely care for their loved ones even when they were unable to be there in person
· $6.6M in tax refunds were brought back to local families putting critical resources back in the pockets of families that need it most
· 595 families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic received emergency assistance allowing them to keep up with basic bills despite reduction in hours and income.
Caregivers Coalition - Some 44 million Americans care for a loved one who is ill, frail or living with a disability. Whether providing occasional help with chores, arranging transportation to medical appointments, or administering 24/7 personal care, unpaid family caregivers are the backbone of long-term care in America. United Way Caregivers Coalition has developed a range of responses and programs that are free and open to all, promote knowledge and action around critical issues, and provide access to help for unpaid family caregivers. For information on virtual options, current programs, and online resources for Somerset County residents, contact: Stephanie Howland at 973.993.1160, x534 or stephanie.howland @unitedwaynnj.org
Free Tax Preparation - United Way of Northern New Jersey and its partners NORWESCAP and Greater Providence Missionary Baptist Church, are providing free and secure virtual tax preparation for ALICE individuals and families and those in poverty. Individuals can use a secure portal to upload tax documents for preparation (available in English or Spanish) or drop off documents for preparation. All returns are prepared by IRS certified volunteers. Free self-preparation software is also available at www.myfreetaxes.com. To access the upload portal visit: https://vita.unitedwaynnj.org/.
ALICE data – Agencies submitting grant applications that require documentation of the needs in the community will find the United for ALICE interactive website: https://www.unitedforalice.org/new-jersey an invaluable data resource.
For additional information on United Way of Northern New Jersey, visit: www.UnitedWayNNJ.org .
|Photo taken from- https://www.globalvillagespace.com/how-does-diet-affect-your-mental-health/|
How Nutrition and Mental Health Come Together
By Kayla Horne, Peer Wellness Coach at RHCMHC
How often have you heard the saying, “You are what you eat”? I’m sure we have all heard this phrase at least once over our lifetime. Now, this doesn’t mean that if you eat a donut, you become a donut. However, what you consume, does in fact have a large effect on how you feel. Why do we feel tired after eating turkey? Why do we feel energetic after a bowl of fresh fruit? You may even feel brand new after adequately hydrating all day. Our food affects our mood!
A better balance of foods and hydration may help you feel better, think more clearly, and have more energy. Eating breakfast is a great start. Smoothies are great but try eating something that requires you to chew. This will help jumpstart your metabolism. Chewing is like turning the keys in your car to get it started. Our body uses carbohydrates such as oatmeal, rice, vegetables, and fruits as energy. Our brain uses fat as fuel. Our muscles use protein for building and recovery. Try to eat a balanced meal hitting all three of those. A great option is a serving of oatmeal, an egg, and some peanut butter. You could also aim for some whole grain bread, eggs, and bacon. Yum!
We want to aim for complex carbohydrates (oatmeal) versus simple carbs (cereal). Complex carbohydrates break down into sugar more slowly and help to keep us full longer. This also gives us longer lasting energy! “Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. It also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. Protein is in: lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soy products, nuts and seeds. Your brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it's important to eat the right ones. Healthy fats are found in: oily fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin), avocados, milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs.” (Mind for Better Mental Health, 2017)
Don’t forget to hydrate! Aim for half of your body weight in ounces. Hydration impacts sleep, mood, and concentration. It is extremely important to make sure you are getting in an adequate amount of water. You will feel more energized, decrease toxins in your body, and keep your brain and body going. Overall, balanced meals with plenty of water will help you to power through your day and combat some moods that may not make you feel so great. Our nutrition impacts how we feel on such a large scale. Next time you’re craving something sweet, skip the donut and sprinkle some cinnamon and a little sugar on some apple slices and bake it instead! Make your water exciting by adding fruits and different herbs to create your own infused water. Dress up your oatmeal with dark chocolate, peanut butter, and your fruit of choice. Good food doesn’t have to be boring. Last but not least, enjoy yourself and don’t restrict. Everything in moderation. Good food does in fact equal a good mood!
Shifting Your Mindset
By Meg Isbitski, LSW, Assistant Mental Health Administrator/AFN Coordinator
March 6th, 2021 marks one year that Governor Murphy declared a public health emergency in New Jersey due to the devastating global effects of COVID-19. As we bleakly look back on this year, we are astoundingly aware of what we have lost: the lives of loved ones, the ever-recovering health of those still healing, and the jobs, businesses, and livelihoods of our neighbors. We lost out on weddings and birthdays, holiday celebrations, and even the way we mourn at funerals. Concerts and vacations feel memorialized in history. “BC—Before Corona”. We know things have changed when students actually miss being at school.
For many, their faith in the system went right along with it. In 2020, we watched our country become ever more estranged over COVID-19 beliefs, police brutality and Black Lives Matter protests, and a partisan political divide that seemed to become more extreme as the days went by. Each topic unto itself is an incredible history to live through, but the trials of this year combined feel unmatched.
These overwhelming losses cause an effect that we have no idea how to respond to physically, emotionally, or psychologically. As humans, we are incredibly resilient and adaptive to change. Despite this, the incredible shifts that we have underwent liken to virtually nothing else we have previously experienced.
It seems difficult to be positive right now, and all the self-care in the world is not a bandage for having your security and belief in humanity met. In order to continue to cope through this situation (that most of us thought would have ended by now), we need to acknowledge this collective pain. More than just the mental health terms we are so used to hearing, such as fear, isolation, and anxiety, we also need to acknowledge the disappointment, distrust, and exhaustion. Only then can we see this situation for what it really is and be able to look at opportunities for a hopeful future. This is a time without bookends. unlike most disasters with a very distinct beginning and end, it feels as if we are floating in limbo. It is unmotivating and increasingly difficult to keep the faith.
To keep perspective, it often helps to focus on what we can control, as miniscule as that feels right now. Even if that means changing your point of view temporarily with a phone call to a loved one or a walk outside. Adjusting how you think and feel for even a few moments is better than doomsday scrolling your newsfeed for hours on end. (Do not recommend). There is no one-size-fits-all coping mechanism for living through this collective trauma. Baking banana bread, learning how to knit, or building a bookshelf will not manifest more vaccines into existence, get your neighbor’s job back, or unify our political divide.
But as humans, as Americans, and most aggressively as New Jerseyans, we are not used to being battered and staying down. We do not know how to lose. We tolerate, cope, and we rebuild together. We volunteer to grocery shop for our elderly neighbor, we work around the clock get vaccines into peoples’ arms, and we advocate for racial, political, and community healing.
We do not know when this will end, or what our daily lives will look like this time next year. We hold onto exhilaration and anger, not knowing where to put it without sports games and rush hour traffic. We have all learned to adjust our baseline perspectives in order to wrap our heads around this way of living, just to keep on keeping on. For me, that means daydreaming about future vacations, learning to hate running a little less, and going out of my way to never hear the word “unprecedented” again.
Older Adults and the COVID-19 Vaccination
By Andrew Rees, MSW, Information Specialist, Office on Aging and Disability Services.
New Jersey is continuing to open and expand the COVID-19 vaccination program to its residents. On January 13, 2021 Governor Phil Murphy announced two additional categories of New Jersey residents eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination: residents ages 65 and older, and individuals ages 16-64 with certain medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus.
Adults with the following conditions are at risk of severe illness caused by the COVID-19 virus:
*Some may ask why smokers receive priority to receive the vaccine; however State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli says smokers are at an increased risk for adverse reactions to COVID-19.
It is important, regardless of age or health condition, individuals are made aware of the COVID-19 vaccination process. To assist in navigating the system, Somerset County has provided COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs, below you will find a few that pertain to registering and vaccination sites (as of 2/22/2021). The entire list can be found by checking out https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/residents/covid-19-status-site/vaccinations/faqs
How to Register for the Vaccine
As of January 21, 2021, Somerset County is using the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System (NJVSS) to schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccination. Everyone interested in receiving the vaccine should pre-register in the NJVSS at: https://covidvaccine.nj.gov/. Once registered, the NJVSS will notify individuals (via email) when it’s time to make an appointment based upon when one registers and their priority group. The NJVSS will provide a list of vaccination sites (sorted by county) across NJ where individuals can choose a location and appointment time.
Please Note: Appointment availability can change, based on the number of individuals making/canceling/changing appointments, and the amount of vaccines available at that time. If someone has registered with the NJVSS, received the “make an appointment now” email, and does not see a time that fits with their schedule, they should check back regularly.
Those who do not have a computer (or smartphone), have difficulty registering for the vaccine, or need assistance registering through the NJVSS are encouraged to call 855-568-0545 for phone support. Live operators are available 8am to 8pm seven days per week.
Somerset County has also instituted a call center to assist people in navigating the state's pre-registration and appointment system. You can reach the Somerset County COVID Call Center at (908) 231-7155.
How Will I Know When It's Time to Get the Vaccine?
When you register with NJVSS, you will receive a follow-up email when it is time to make your appointment. Appointments are not available by calling the Somerset County Department of Health (SCDOH) and can only be made by registering through NJVSS. Once notified via email, an individual will be able to register at the clinics with available openings.
The SCDOH is working with state and local partners to notify the public when and how the vaccine is available to them. This includes traditional forms of public notification – news release, website and social media updates – as well as public service announcements; print, radio and TV ads, community-level outreach, and other forms of outreach to ensure those who live or work in Somerset County know when it’s their time to receive the vaccine. Health care providers will also notify their patients.
How will I know when and how to schedule my second dose ?
All people who received their vaccinations at the Somerset County Department of Health clinic at Raritan Valley Community College will receive their second dose appointment via email regardless of the registration system they used.
Somerset County is scheduling all future appointment thought the state's pre-registration and appointment system at https://covidvaccine.nj.gov/. All who receive their first dose vaccine appointments through the state pre-registration system will automatically be scheduled for their second dose appointment.
Where are the Vaccination Sites in Somerset County?
Somerset County is planning for widespread community vaccinations at sites managed by the SCDOH, as well as distribution by medical professionals, pharmacies and other private sector entities.
Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) is the main vaccination site. Somerset County is currently identifying additional sites where it can safely and quickly provide vaccines soon after they are received by the federal government. Currently, all COVID-19 vaccine locations in New Jersey available for eligible residents can be found at covid19.nj.gov
Please note that the Federal and New Jersey government are currently allocating vaccine doses on a weekly basis. Somerset County schedules clinics based on the number of vaccine doses received each week from the state. Since Somerset County does not know in advance the exact number of doses of vaccine they will receive, clinics are scheduled one week at a time to assure everyone who has an appointment will receive their shots. If the current federal and state weekly allocation schedule changes to more than a week’s lead time, Somerset County will schedule clinics and appointments to reflect that change.
For more up to date information on COVID-19 and vaccinations, check out the following sites:
· Somerset County COVID-19 Resource Center: https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/residents/covid-19-status
· If you have questions about the vaccination program, please call the Somerset County COVID Vaccine and Testing Hotline at (908) 231-7155 or visit https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/residents/covid-19-status-site/vaccinations/faqs for more information.
· The NJ COVID-19 vaccination page is at https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/vaccine
· For information regarding medical conditions and COVID-19:
Renewing your Military ID card
Every member of the military and their dependents know the importance of having a current ID card. Access to healthcare and military services are connected to this important document. Though the current pandemic has extended dependent ID cards until June 2021 it is still important to be aware of your expiration date and not wait until the last month to get a new card. Renewing is much easier than many believe. Appointments can be booked online up to a month in advance and there are 11 locations within 50 miles of Somerville. There are an additional 3 within 50 miles that accept walk-in appointments; however, planning ahead and scheduling your appointment is strongly encouraged. If there are any changes to your family such as adding or removing a dependent ensure you take documentation (marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.) with you so that DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) can be updated. To search for the ID card renewal site enter RAPIDS ID in the search bar and select the ID Card Office Online link. The website address is ID Card Office Online (osd.mil) or https://idco.dmdc.osd.mil/idco/. Once at the site, type in your location and set the search radius to 50 miles. From there, select your location and book your appointment from those available. They do fill up quickly so definitely plan ahead!