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Unity Place of Monmouth is known for nourishing its clients back to health through counseling and compassion. Now the facility has a new chef, Dena, and its clients’ palates have been most pleased with the dishes coming out of the kitchen since she started. Dena is imaginative in the foods she prepares for the more than 100 clients at the facility.  As good as the meals taste, they are also healthful, vital for the clients as they work on their mental health or substance use issues.

 Dena learned her trade at culinary school in Atlantic City, but the beginnings of her love of cooking can be traced to her time at her grandmother’s knee helping her with family meals.  

 A recent treat, her homemade banana bread, made for a delectable snack gobbled up by both clients and the staff. See her offerings be so enjoyed brings her a great deal of satisfaction: “It’s a great feeling when people like and appreciate my cooking.”


Unity Place of Monmouth has clients who are homeless enter the program throughout the year, but it comes as no surprise that colder weather brings an increase of these clients (there are currently seven homeless individuals at Unity).  As the chill increases, the beach or under the boardwalk no longer provide sufficient protection from the elements. 

 Many of these homeless Unity Place sees have exhausted their options with social services or have been deemed to have caused their own homelessness. Some have legal charges that make them ineligible for housing.

 It should come as no surprise that people with mental illness often make poor choices. They are then blamed for making decisions that have brought about their homelessness. This is unfortunate and in many cases, is unbelievable. Of course people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia will make poor decisions; it is a byproduct of their illness. While it is certainly difficult to serve this population, this comes with the territory of providing services to people with a mental disorder.

 In some cases, these individuals have been deemed to have caused their own homelessness because they refused to be placed in housing in drug-infested areas that included boarding homes where drug dealing was known to occur. This refusal to live in an area where drugs are rampant makes perfect sense to anyone who understands addiction and the threat to one’s recovery posed by living in an area rife with drugs.  One of our ex-clients was clean and sober for a good period of time now walks the streets in Red Bank rather than be placed in a drug area.

 Homelessness is a more prevalent issue than our officials report. A review of the regulations needs to be done and the mentally ill need more help.



Unity Place of Monmouth County on September 13 hosted a training on administering Narcan, which reverses the effects of an opiate overdose. Kisha Franklin of Jersey Shore Addiction Services is pictured demonstrating how to administer Narcan for the 12 attendees at the training.  The training was part of Unity Place’s celebration of National Addiction Recovery Month. Narcan has reversed thousands of opiate overdoses in New Jersey in recent years. After a person is  revived with Narcan, they are urged to seek treatment for their addiction, a service Unity Place has provided to hundreds with opiate dependence.


On the third Tuesday of each month, from 7- 8:30 p.m., family-members and friends who have had their lives upended by a loved one’s addiction will find refuge in the Family Addiction Network (FAN). Based in Long Branch, FAN provides a setting for attendees to give voice to their feelings and fears with people who understand all too well what they are going through.

FAN depends on Unity Place of Monmouth as a vital resource to assist those trying to find treatment for a loved one. In return, Unity Place refers family members to FAN, emphasizing that addiction is a disease affecting and afflicting the entire family, and therefore support and counseling are needed for all in the addicted person’s circle of family and friends.

Susan Marco, the co-founder of FAN, began the group after her step-son developed a drug problem. Through her own experience and that of her husband, she understood that parents and family members often do not know where to turn when a loved one becomes addicted.

Fan is peer-based, volunteer organization. Its meetings open with a presenter followed by a sharing session. That sharing portion is guided by a mental health therapist, whose professional experience benefits the group, Ms. Marco said.

Ms. Marco is a great believer in taking service-oriented approach to counter the chaos that generally accompanies addiction. She is currently working to establish a grass-roots effort to promote recovery.

To learn more about FAN, go to:


It is true that we have seen some important gains in having addiction recognized as illness. It is also true that we still have a long way to go before people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs are covered by their health plans to the same degree as what is afforded for physical illness. That is the goal of parity – equal coverage and treatment for behavioral health problems, including addiction.

Lorraine Laura, LCSW, Program Director at Unity Place of Monmouth, has a long career treating patients with an addiction. Her years in the addiction field have given her a close, and often troubling viewpoint of patients being denied the proper level of care approved by their health insurers.  

Among the obstacles health insurers use to deny proper care is known as fail first. This is the practice of having the patient go for a lower level of care than clinically recommended. Only after failing at the lower level might the appropriate level of care be approved. Lorraine notes the absurdity of this scenario. Imagine a cancer patient being told to try a form of care that is less effective than the chemo that this individual’s oncologist prescribed.

New Jersey may at long-last address the issue of disparate care through the legislative process. The state Legislature has before it a measure to require parity in treating addiction.  A hearing on the bill may have  Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee hearing on September 13.  Advocates have had a long row to hoe, delays that have cost many lives, but a remedy could at long last be at hand.  

 You can play an important part in this effort by contacting your representatives on the Legislature and asking that they consider supporting A.2031/S.1339.  Here is a link to look up elected officials and make calls to your two NJ Assemblypersons and Senator.


Unity Place presented its awards for July to deserving employees and also recognized a client who has made tremendous progress at Unity.  The awards illustrate how the care and quality of Unity personnel put recovery within reach for clients.

Bridget Cowan was selected as employee of the month for her commitment to building up the new evening IOP and for the outreach she has done.  She finds both her counseling and the outreach, something that is new to her, to be rewarding.

Carolyn was chosen as Unity’s staff person for July. She has done a fantastic job with the Community Unity Garden. Carolyn clearly has a green thumb, as the garden is teeming with tomatoes and squash, some of which are served as part of our lunches.

Arlene A. is Unity’s driver of the month. She has been with Unity for over two years and is a dedicated worker. Arlene does one of the longest runs we have, going all the way to Toms River and back every day. She ensures the clients enjoy the ride by putting oldies on and encouraging the riders to sing along, making the long drive to Toms River pass in a blink.

 And Chong S. was named July’s client of the month due to being such a good helper to her friends in program. She started at Unity in December and throughout her time with us has been the first person to provide assistance to anyone in her track who needs it.


“It’s a medical condition. It’s not a moral choice.” Those words came from Dr. Robert Redfield as he spoke about addiction and the depth of the country’s opiate crisis. Dr. Redfield declared the opiate crisis the defining health problem of our time, surpassing AIDS in the toll taken in a single year. Contributing to the many overdose deaths has been fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid that is sometimes added to heroin.  

 Unity Place of Monmouth has sounded a similar message to the doctor’s, noting that people do not enter into addiction or mental illness by choice. The Oceanport facility, which recently opened a night-time Intensive Outpatient Program, stresses the importance of finding the right place to begin one’s recovery. The selection of a treatment facility is a vital decision and makes all the difference in whether recovery takes hold.

 In spite of the many people from various backgrounds who become addicted to opiates, attitudes persist about addiction being something a person brings upon oneself. We have seen gains and some acceptance of addiction being an illness, as advances in addiction medicine increasingly shown how drug use alters brain chemistry. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, has successfully made use of brain imaging to illustrate the effect of prolonged drug use on the brain.

 Unity Place of Monmouth will continue to work to broaden understanding about addiction as a disease and will continue to provide quality and appropriate treatment to help many with opiate or other forms of addiction make their way into lasting recovery.


At Unity Place, there are many ways and many people who ensure that we live up to our name. One sees the importance of unity every day at the Oceanport mental health and substance abuse treatment facility, and it is certainly on display at the facility’s end of the month celebrations. These events take time to mark birthdays of staff and clients and to recognize their progress and contributions, much as a family would.

Staff, of course, are the heart of the substance abuse and mental health programs Unity provides to its clients. It is our clients who choose the top staff person for the month. This month, the honor of Staff Person of Month goes to Alyssa Lundy. She was recently promoted to senior case manager. Alyssa’s promotion is well deserved, as she has assumed more responsibilities and offers a host of creative activities for Unity clients.

Jamie Paris, June’s employee of the month, was selected by her Unity colleagues. The wearer of many hats, Jamie went above and beyond in making the arrangements for the launch of Unity Place’s new evening IOP. She worked to get a fine catered dinner and ensure a full-house was on hand.

Unity Place is known for its transportation service and the drivers who ensure our clients arrive safely and on time for their treatment. We recognize those who transport our clients, with this month’s honoree as driver of the month being Shirley Clayton. In this case, saying “you go girl”really is true.

The end of June celebration also honored Eddie H. as a recent programgraduate -he is stepping down from addiction partial care to outpatient care. His progress has been remarkable and he is set to begin work.

Congratulations to all of these deserving members of the Unity Place family.


June was particularly noteworthy for Unity Place of Monmouth, as it launched a new evening Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Bridget Cowan, the director of the evening, gave an overview during a dinner held to introduce the program, which will be a great benefit in need of substance abuse treatment who are employed. The IOP  6:00 – 9:30 Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.



At Unity, our goal is to provide a therapeutic environment where each client can learn how to successfully handle life’s challenges.

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1075 Stephenson Ave.
Suite C
Oceanport, NJ 07757


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