Unity Place of Monmouth County was recently profiled in a paper written by Crystal Williams. The paper is for Ms. Williams’ Foundations of the Counseling Profession class at Rutgers University. In addition to her classwork, she works at Easter Seals. Ms. Williams interviewed Jamie Paris, Unity Place’s Outreach Supervisor for the paper. Following are excerpts from Ms. Williams’ paper describing the Unity Place history and mission, its clients and the services those clients receive, as well as some general information about the tremendous need for mental health and substance use treatment.
Millions of Americans struggle with drug and alcohol abuse and many are unaware of their disease and of those that are unaware, hundreds of thousands may never obtain treatment. “Additionally, the disease burden of mental illness is among the highest of all diseases” (Health Improvement Coalition of Monmouth County [HICMC], 2016). The data of individuals struggling and not receiving services emphasizes the need for treatment programs in New Jersey. In Monmouth County, specifically, a Community Health Improvement
Plan was established to “increase access to and knowledge of mental, behavioral, and substance use resources” (HICMC, 2016). Unity Place is a day program for adults where a therapeutic environment is fostered to provide much needed treatment to individuals living with substance use disorders, chronic mental illness, or co-occurring disorders. Unity Place accepts referrals from state and community hospitals, other community mental health agencies, and most often from self or family/friend referrals. Although located in Monmouth County, Unity Place provides services for residents of Monmouth, Middlesex, and Ocean counties. Jamie Paris, the interviewee, is the Outreach Supervisor responsible for educating the community about the mental health services provided at this agency through the website, blog, flyers, and in-person meetings with other community agencies.
Unity Place of Monmouth County, LLC was established to provide a therapeutic environment for clients to be able to find success in handling life’s challenges. Unity Place provides various mental health services and life skills groups in the hopes that these interventions will prevent hospitalization or relapse. Unity Place staff recognize that wellness and recovery is an ongoing journey and staff seem committed to assisting their clients through the process. The Director of the day program shared that the agency aims to celebrate the individuality of each client to ensure that every individual living with mental illness, substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorder can achieve community reintegration, as viewed on the Unity Place website https://unityplacemc.com.
Adults 18 years and older are welcome at Unity Place as long as they are living with a chronic mental illness like schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or major depressive disorder, a substance use disorder like alcohol or opioid use disorders, or a co-occurring disorder. The interviewee reported that the majority of the population served are low-income individuals who qualify for Medicaid insurance.
Types of Services
In fostering wellness and recovery, Unity Place tailors treatment and recovery to each client’s individualized valued life-role. Clients are evaluated for their service needs based upon the areas of wellness, which include physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social and occupational. This day program offers a partial care hospitalization, an intensive outpatient program (IOP), and an outpatient program (OP). Within the programs, therapeutic services like case management, psychiatric services, individualized counseling, urine drug screens, individualized recovery plans, group counseling, and medication education and management are offered. Group therapy is offered in areas such as stress and coping in recovery, motivation and self-esteem, emotion/anger management, and cognitive behavioral techniques. Some groups that Jamie highlighted during the interview were creative expression, journaling, brain workout and music for recovery.
In addition to its clinical programs and services, Unity Place serves breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. The agency holds fun events for holidays and other significant days for their clients. One area of improvement assessed during this interview would be the need for more multicultural services that might be able to serve a more culturally diverse population. Unity Place having the capability to accept Medicare may also diversify the current population. Overall, my impression of the agency is that they are running an essential behavioral health service in the community that seems to be operating successfully and offers a safe haven to an underserved population of adults living with chronic illness.