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Unity Place of Monmouth put the finishing touches on Mental Health Awareness Month last week with a fun trivia test that pitted the clients and counseling staff against each other in a good-natured competition. This was the last and among the best activities that filled the Unity calendar throughout May.

Clients came up with a list of questions covering a range of topics ranging from mental health to movie trivia to history. To give an idea of the wide-ranging topics, questions covered the parts of brain, the year was Rocky made, and President who got stuck in a bathtub.  When the dust settled, the clients had edged out the counseling staff, 8-9. 

Clients also voted on counselors in 14 categories, including the coolest wardrobe, who is most likely to be president. The winners were:

Nikki – best wardrobe

Lorraine- lets clients into the Unity store when it’s not their day

Albert- next president

Sarah –  knows their stuff

Paul –  next director

Donna – always late to group

Carolyn – always on time

Bertina – most likely to win an Oscar

Two others on the Unity staff merit superlatives as the most creative event coordinators: Jamie and Bridget. They endured May was filled with Mental Health Awareness along with amusement.

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Unity Place of Monmouth is making the the most of Mental Awareness Month.  Each May, Unity Place and organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness turn their attention to educating the public about mental illness and combatting stigma. This effort is all the more important as more people in recent years have been impacted by mental health issues, including many young people as well as veterans returning from service.

Unity Place clients have had a host of activities that included a visit from a couple of canines and their trainers and a spelling bee with words centering on mental health and treatment. And all month they have been at work on posters combating stigma towards mental illness.

The messages of the posters convey messages about how many people suffer from mental health issues. One emphasized that “not all pain is physical, and not all wounds are visible.”  The hidden nature of mental illness is crucial to understanding and treating it. An individual may appear well on the surface but be deeply troubled and may not seek treatment until the illness is at an advanced stage, potentially imperiling their life.

One provides a powerful exhortation: “Grow through what you go through.”  In the same vein, still another one stressed, “You are important, You matter, Your presence on this earth makes a difference.” And this one: “Your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage does.”

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, the staff have been deeply involved with the clients work and have encouraged creativity and enjoyment while at the same time confronting serious issues affecting individuals with Mental Health issues. Congratulations to clients and staff alike!


Unity Place of Monmouth had a visit from a pair of special canines and their human comrades.  The owners and trainers from Missing Canine brought a pair of friendly and smart pups in a program that was part of Unity’s celebration of May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

The clients leaned about what it takes to train a dog to be an emotional support dog. This presentation included commands the dogs learn and how they come to ease a person’s anxiety or depression. This, of course, brought smiles to faces of the clients who experience some of those feelings.

Another part of the visit illustrated what is involved to have a dog track a lost animal. This included a demonstration by the visiting dogs on how they rely on their acute sense of smell to find a lost dog.

One of the guests is named Billie Holiday, but she did not sing her rendition of “God Bless the Child.”

These dogs and those who brought them are remarkable. As are the staff at Unity who helped bring this demonstration to the clients.


May brings not only glorious spring weather but also Mental Health Awareness Month. Unity Place of Monmouth embraces this as an opportunity to provide clients with activities that are enjoyable and also focused on some central issues related to mental health.

Exploring Mental Health Awareness Month’s goal of improving understanding and acceptance of mental health issues, Unity clients will be asked to develop a campaign taking aim at stigma.  The campaign provide facts and data about the prevalence of mental illness and that people of all backgrounds have experienced mental health issues.  Clients will work on the posters during case management sessions, so it will not interfere with their group work.  Program director Lorraine Laura will picking the group that comes up with the best message and imagery.

Early in  May, the facility will get a visit from a collection of four-legged supporters.  Caregiver Companions will be coming to Unity Place the week of May 6, with therapy dogs spending time with those being treated at the facility. This is in addition to the regular visits by therapy dogs that clients see every month.

Mental Health Awareness Month activities will include a yoga, which will be provided by former Unity Place intern Tiffany. She will do two 30 minute sessions with clients. Yoga emphasizes the vital connection between physical and mental health.

Continuing with the theme of health, the third week of May will have clients making their own trail mix snack. The idea here is to facilitate conversations about health living and how one’s diet affects the mood.

There will also be a spelling bee and, closing out the month, a trivia contest in which clients will try to stump Unity Place counselors with questions centering on mental health. This last week of May will focus on clients talking about coping skills and the changes they have made in their mental health.

Unity outreach staff Jamie Paris and Bridget Cowan are to be applauded for coming with a month’s worth of enjoyable and thought-provoking activities that benefit Unity’s clients.


Supporters of addiction and mental health insurance parity needed the patience of Job to see this effort through. Last week, the long-anticipated goal of seeing a law enacted to require health insurers to treat patients with addiction or mental illness equitably became a reality. On April 11, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into a law a measure that will eliminate health insurers’ restrictive practices for limited care for behavioral health patients and ensure accountability through a reporting the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.

Unity Place of Monmouth, which provides quality behavioral health care for adults, applauds the resolve of advocates who spent years advancing the reform. The parity law prohibits insurers from imposing higher co-pays and other tighter restrictions on covering care such as care limits and usage reviews.

Also in the law is a requirement for insures to submit an annual report detailing their means of determining medical necessity and other treatment limits for both physical and behavioral health issues. The department is then charged with analyzing the industry reports and producing its own evaluation of whether parity is being achieved. Each May, DOBI must submit its assessment to the Legislature.

Gov. Murphy said the new law bring “peace of mind” to families who have a loved one with a behavioral health problem. One of those families is Valerie Furlong’s. Ms. Furlong and her husband have had to pay out-of-pocket for their sons’ treatment. During the signing ceremony, Ms. Furlong said that she and her husband were fortunate in that they had the means to pay for their sons’ care when their health insurer denied inpatient care. Many other families, Ms. Furlong noted, lack the resources to pay for life-saving treatment.

Parity has been in place at the federal level for more than a decade. Enforcement, however, was left largely to the states. New Jersey, like most states, did a poor job as an insurance watchdog. In fact, New Jersey was among many states earning failing mark from parity advocacy group ParityTrack, which was established by Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman and son of Ted Kennedy who now lives in New Jersey. This new law will greatly improve that rating.

The law will prevent insurers from creating further hardships for families whose loved ones are facing the challenge of substance use or mental illness. The wait for parity may have seemed biblical in length but it has had a happy ending – or perhaps it should be regarded as a happy beginning for behavioral health in our state.


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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Oceanport, NJ 07757


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