Human Services Newsletter
“Trauma, Community and Light at the End of the Tunnel”
(Image Reproduced via Fair Use) (Image MJF)
“We’ve all been through community traumas before. We’ve weathered mass violence, we’ve weathered natural disasters, and indeed my colleagues and I have studied many such events, including the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings, the Orlando nightclub shootings, hurricanes Irma and Harvey. And our research tells us that most will get through these situations—humans are quite resilient. But somehow this event feels different, and it is. … This is an invisible threat; we don’t know who is infected, and anybody could infect us. This is an ambiguous threat; we have no idea how bad this will get. We have a very uncertain future; we don’t know how long this will last. And this is a global threat; no community is safe. Moreover, our need to social distance conflicts with our natural desire to connect with our friends and family during stressful times. And our typical sources of distractions such as national or personal sports or going to the gym, going to restaurants or bars, movies or travel, are all restricted by this crisis.”
— Roxane Cohen Silver, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological Science, Medicine, and Public Health at University of California, Irvine
This month’s column will be a brief one. As Dr. Silver notes, we (human beings) are a resilient bunch, but the COVID-19 crisis has tested us all in ways most of us have never experienced before. With a slow but steady rise in cases, even here in New Jersey, it is difficult emotionally to acknowledge that we are not yet through this crisis and will need to endure a bit longer. I think we understand this intellectually- but that doesn’t make it easier on a gut level. While some of our services continue to be delivered “in person, by appointment,” there are others that continue to be delivered via video platforms. Our SCDHS staff members have been creative, dedicated, flexible and willing and have managed to provide quality services virtually, but we know it isn’t quite the same. A touch, a sense of shared space, a place to gather together to work on things in partnership; we know these things are missing and we, too, yearn for a day when we can truly be together again. My Dad is about to turn 95- and for the first time in over a decade, we’ll not be hosting Thanksgiving at our home. So much is different- so much is hard. It is easy to be made numb by the sheer duration of our communal trauma. For those of us who have lost a loved one, it’s almost too much to bear.
And yet…as I wrote last month…faith in the future still exists-it’s just harder to hold on to. The days are shorter, the darkness is both actual and metaphoric, but we will come out the other side eventually. Let’s hope that we see some signs in the universe (before I write to you again) that show us a glimmer of the sun coming up.
I believe we will.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
November Human Services Public Meetings
2nd @ 9:30am PAC/PACADA Meeting
4th @ 1:30pm Advisory Council on Disability Issue (ACODI) Meeting
5th @ 5pm Mental Health Board Meeting
5th @ 7pm Youth Council Meeting
10th @ 5pm Freeholder Work Session
10th@ 7pm Freeholders Meeting
12th @ 10am Continuum Of Care (COC) Meeting
18th @ 9:30am LACADA/CASS Meeting
19th @ 1:30pm Human Services Advisory Council (HSAC) Meeting
24th @ 1:30pm CIACC Meeting
24th @ 5pm Freeholder Work Session
24th @ 7pm Freeholders Meeting
Somerset County Offices will be closed on November 3rd, 11th, 26th and 27th.
For more information regarding these meetings or how to get involved with a committee email Evelyn at email@example.com
Happy Veteran's Day to our Somerset County Veterans!
To all of our Somerset County Veterans, you are not forgotten. We cherish your efforts to keep us all safe.
Thank you for your service!
Visit the Wall of Honor to see the Somerset County residents who are currently serving in the U.S. military.
Out of the Darkness:
Suicide as a Public Health Crisis that we can all help to Prevent
WE CAN ALL HELP
Submitted By: Linda Flint, Richard Hall Community Health & Wellness Center
Death by suicide is when someone injures themselves with the intent to die. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2018, suicide was the tenth most prevalent cause of death in the United States. (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/fastfact.html).
There were 48,000 people who died by suicide that year, which is 2.5 times the number of homicides in the same year. The rate of suicide has been increasing each year, and more people die by suicide than by murder, war and natural disasters combined! (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml#part_154968).
In the present time of pandemic, stressors have become more intense. None of us needs study results to tell us that fear, isolation, grief and anxiety have become unwelcome companions for many people in our community, for our families and for ourselves.
In spite of its prevalence and the toll that it takes, suicide is too often something that people don’t talk about. When someone dies by suicide, it affects not just the individual, but also their family, friends and community. The effects are deep and lasting. We can all benefit by getting informed. There are factors that increase the risk for suicide. Experiencing violence in any form—sexual violence, child abuse, bullying—increase risk. Other factors that protect people come under the umbrella of “connectedness,” and include: having support from family and community, and having easy access to (mental) health care.
The CDC has developed a package titled “Preventing Suicide” that is built on seven pillars. They include; 1- strengthen economic support, 2-strengthen access and delivery of suicide care, 3-create protective environments, 4-promote connectedness, 5-teach coping and problem solving skills, 6-identify and support people at risk, and 7-lessen harm and prevent future risk. For more details, look at the CDC website. (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/fastfact.html).
A group called The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention organizes annual “Out of the Darkness” walks to raise money and awareness for the prevention of suicide. The walks this year will take place in multiple locations on November 1st. Through this annual event, they are seeking to “change the conversation about mental health and put a stop to this tragic loss of life.” (https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cms.page&id=1370).
If you or someone you know is considering suicide and needs immediate assistance, call 911 or 908-526-4100 to be connected to Bridgeway Psychiatric Emergency Screening Service for those who reside in Somerset County.
If you need support and are looking for someone to talk to, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7/365; free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. You can reach them by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline (NJ Hopeline) provides support, assessment and, if needed, intervention in the most cooperative and least restrictive manner to New Jersey residents in emotional distress and suicidal crisis. You can reach them 24/7/365 by calling 1-855-654-6735.
If you are feeling depressed and would like some assistance, you can reach out directly to the Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center and Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic by calling 908-704-2800. Business hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.
Stay hopeful and involved! When we all work together, things can get better.
How the Personal Assistance Services Program
Empowers Individuals with Disabilities
Submitted by: Amy Cameron, Office On Aging and Disability Services
Do you have a permanent physical disability and are currently working, volunteering, or going to school? Is it becoming increasingly difficult to maintain your independence due to your disability? Do you know someone who fits this description? If so, the Personal Assistance Services Program might be for you.
The Personal Assistance Program (PASP) is in place to help those with permanent physical disabilities maintain their highest level of independence while remaining active in the community. PASP is designed to provide individuals with physical disabilities choice, flexibility, control, and the opportunity to tailor their personal care services through a cash allowance. PASP enables adults with disabilities to be employed, participate in educational programs to prepare for employment, and/or volunteer their time in a community-based setting. PASP is a social model allowing consumers to independently make decisions, manage and supervise their own care.
Eligibility requirements to qualify for PASP:
New Jersey resident between the ages of 18 through 70
Must have a permanent physical disability
Capable of directing and supervising your own services and employees (agency or direct hire)
Live in a community-based setting where personal care is not already provided
Employed, attending an educational or training program, or volunteering in the community
Cannot be on Medicaid and/or Medicaid eligible
Financial Eligibility: There is no financial cutoff of eligibility for consumers. There is however, a cost share for those whose income exceeds 350% of the federal poverty level (this number is updated on an annual basis).
Consumers selected for the program may receive up to 40 hours of services per week, based on their individual assessment. A professional assessment performed by an impartial vendor is conducted to determine the person’s capability of self-direction and to determine the amount of hours necessary to meet that consumer’s needs.
Some examples of possible services covered under PASP are; personal care, meal preparation, transportation, errand services, and household management. Consumers can choose to hire from an agency or hire a friend or family member. The service hours deemed appropriate by the consumers individual assessment will be “cashed out” and placed into a personal account. This account is maintained by a State contracted Fiscal Intermediary Service Organization. This is also referred to as a consumer’s monthly grant.
For more information about the Personal Assistance Services Program (PASP) or to complete an inquiry please call or email Amy Cameron, PASP Coordinator, Somerset County Office on Aging & Disability Services at (908) 704-6346 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Military Family Month
Submitted by: Jean O'Brien, Veteran Services
November is Military Family Month, a time to reflect on the lives of those with a spouse and/or parent who serves in the military. There are many rewards to this life, but many challenges as well. There are over 7000 (1000 female) Active Duty military from all branches serving in New Jersey, and over 16,000 (3000 female) in the National Guard and Reserves. They are dedicated to their country, their family and the people they serve with.
What can a childhood of a military family look like? Four different elementary schools; living in five states and one foreign country. Driving from your duty station in Florida to your next one in Alaska in an orange and white VW van with three kids, two adults, and two dogs (St. Bernard and Pekingese). Going to bed at night not knowing if the military parent will be there in the morning; and, if not, not knowing when they will return. Sometimes back the same night; sometimes several weeks later. The other parent having to be cheerful while doing everything for the family solo. Most of all being so very proud of the work and sacrifice made for this country.
Situations around the globe call for our military to be sent away from home, often for extended periods of time. The families face many adjustments, both when the separation begins and when it ends. Uncertainty is a way of life that is met with resolve and resiliency.
To quote A. A. Milne “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Do You Struggle Every Month To Pay Your Bills?
Submitted by: Susie Suter, Central Jersey Housing Resource Center
Now is a good time to start budgeting and get your finances under control.
CJHRC’s FREE Financial Literacy counseling can help you create a budget and start tracking monthly expenses so you know exactly where your monthly income is going. Once you see where funds are being spent, you can then change your spending habits to achieve your financial goals. Clients enrolled in this program will learn how a credit score is calculated; how debt affects your credit score; how to obtain savings; popular scams; what is debt to income ratio; as well as the opportunity to obtain a FREE tri-merge credit report that will NOT affect your credit score after completing an authorization form. A detailed budget form is available at https://cjhrc.org/images/Monthly_Budget_Form.pdf.
If you’ve never created a budget before (or if you’ve worked on one but always felt like something was off), figuring out how much to spend on what can be overwhelming. The guidelines below give you a range to guide you as you plan how much to spend.
Somerset County residents have an extra benefit of being able to apply to CJHRC’s unique Savings Match Program. This program provides accepted households who complete the program requirements with a maximum of $900 towards a specific goal. Clients create and review a budget with a Counselor at the start of the program. Clients are then required to submit a detailed monthly budget for 12 months, a monthly bank statement, along with verification of the $25 monthly deposit. Clients cannot take on more debt while in the program. If all criteria is met after 12 months, clients will have saved $300, which will be matched with $900 towards their initial set goal(s).
If you are interested in this FREE counseling, please call 908-446-0036 and speak to a Counselor to get started toward financial stability.
Social Security Announces 1.3 Percent Benefit Increase for 2021
Provided by: Somerset County
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 1.3 percent in 2021, the Social Security Administration announced.
The 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2021. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2020. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits). The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To view more facts and details about the changes, view this Fact Sheet.
Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their personal my Social Security account. People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Information about Medicare changes for 2021, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov. For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2021 are announced. Final 2021 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
From Delinquent to Veteran?
Submitted by: Gayle Kaufman, Juvenile Institutional Services
In honor of Veteran’s Day on November 11, this month’s juvenile justice article focuses on adjudicated youth who want to enlist in the Armed Forces. Many people subscribe to the notion that the military is a great way to get wayward youth to “shape up” but, the fact is, their juvenile court history or history of substance abuse may exclude them from eligibility.
Applicants for all branches of the military must meet certain “medical, moral, and physical” requirements in order to enlist. Though having a juvenile record doesn’t necessarily preclude a youth from joining up, certain offenses can be an impediment or even render them ineligible. According to the National Juvenile Defender Center:
“Your juvenile record might make it harder for you to join the military. Generally, the U.S. military does not treat juvenile records any differently than adult records. If your record involves selling drugs, domestic violence, or a felony, you may need to request special permission (a waiver) to enlist. If your record includes a juvenile adjudication involving a sexual offense, you will be prohibited from joining the military, and no waivers are available. Each branch of the military has different rules about waivers. You may need to give the military a copy of your juvenile court paperwork, even if your record has been sealed or expunged.”
(“Have a JUVENILE RECORD? Plan for Your Future! NEW JERSEY,” December, 2018)
It’s true that juvenile court records in New Jersey are sealed, meaning that only a handful of entities - one of them being the military - are legally able to access them. But it may surprise you to learn that even a record that has been expunged can still be retrieved in a military background check, and adjudicated youth are required to disclose their history of involvement in the juvenile justice system, including expunged offenses, during the “moral screening” process.
As with most opportunities, timing is everything. While some branches of the Armed Forces are generally more forgiving of past transgressions that others, the restrictions are somewhat fluid, depending on need:
“The Army has the reputation of approving the most moral waivers. The Air Force and Coast Guard approve the fewest. The Navy and Marine Corps fall somewhere in between. However, that's not always the case. There have been times, during extremely good recruiting periods, where the Army won't consider any applicant who needs a moral waiver, at all. During times of downsizing of the military, not being at war, and when the civilian economy slow, the need of fewer recruits meets receiving more applications - this is the formula for fewer waivers getting approved. However, the opposite situation will improve the chances of waiver approval.”
(Military Criminal History Moral Waivers: Can You Join If You Have Been Arrested?, BY ROD POWERS Updated October 22, 2018)
The bottom line is that acceptance is decided on a case-by-case basis, and any youth who is interested in military service should speak directly to a recruiter to find out whether his/her/their specific circumstances will impact enlistment. Honesty is the best policy- withholding information that is later discovered is a federal offense, so coming clean about their past is a good first step on their road to a better future.
Somerset County 4-H
Somerset County 4-H: Tree-mendous Trees
November 9, 4:00pm-4:45pm, Open to Grades 2-4
Join us on Zoom as we show you the wonderful world of Autumn! Have you ever wondered why leaves turn red, orange, and yellow in the Fall? We’ll explore the chemistry behind the changing colors of autumn leaves, learn how to identify the tree species in your yard, and discover the many products that trees provide us. Click here to register for this event.
Somerset County 4-H CloverTalks
Every Tuesday at 7pm, Live on Instagram
Join us every Tuesday at 7pm on our Instagram @SCNJ4H where we’ll be having fun and discussing a variety of topics with an ever changing cast of 4-H members, leaders, volunteers, staff, and more! This is the perfect opportunity to see what 4-H is all about, as well as catching up with what we’ve been doing. You can watch CloverTalks live on our Instagram @SCNJ4H.
Somerset County 4-H Website
Check out our newly designed and updated Somerset County 4-H website! This is the best place to learn about upcoming events, read out latest blogs, and find incredible online resources that you can use for yourself or your family. Head over to our website at 4Histops.org
New Jersey 4-H from Home
Opportunities Throughout November
Take advantage of a variety of online webinars, events, clubs, and resources for both youth and families on the Rutgers New Jersey 4-H from Home website. No membership is needed for a majority of the events, so check out what you or your child might be interested in. Visit the 4-H from Home website.
Family & Community Health Sciences
Online Cooking Classes
Every Tuesday and Friday
Join FCHS this November as they cover a variety of delicious Fall inspired 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. View upcoming classes.
Visit the FCHS YouTube Channel
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. Visit the FCHS YouTube channel.
Free, Online Classes for Community Groups
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. For more information about how you we can help, head to our website at: https://somerset.njaes.rutgers.edu/fchs/.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Available Year-RoundTrained 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: email@example.com. More information.
Home, Lawn, and Garden Events and News
Upcoming Events in November
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. View the Rutgers NJAES website.
Youth Services Update
The Somerset County Office of Youth Services has updated their
Resource Directory for Professionals.
This compendium of resources has been prepared by the Somerset County Youth Services Commission.
It's goal is to provide the residents of Somerset County and those individuals working with the county's youth a concise guide to the services being offered to Somerset County residents between birth and 19 years.
To view the updated resource, go here.
All Somerset County-operated senior wellness centers will continue to follow public healthcare guidelines for the safety of its clients and caregivers by remaining temporarily closed until through the end of 2020. County staff is working diligently to provide food deliveries and remote services.
To read more about these changes, visit the Office of Aging webpage.
COVID-19 School-Age Tuition Assistance for Working Families
Maximum annual household income has been INCREASED (from $75,000) to $150,000
Check out the Literacy Resource Guide from United Way, that includes ESL classes and other such resources
Most are free & online for now!