Two local residents went from living in squalor and dealing with the ravages of substance abuse to living in safety and sobriety, and even playing Bingo each night. It’s possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of Monmouth ACTS (Assisting Community Through Services).
Back in 2020, helping those who suffered with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) was more difficult than ever due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team behind Monmouth ACTS knew more support was needed, and through their connections and advocacy, a grant was awarded to RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery (IFPR) that allowed for the development of three new programs, including the Monmouth County Recovery Collaborative. As a recovery-oriented, person-centered network of services within Monmouth County, the Collaborative was created to streamline resources and facilitate cross-agency referrals to address challenges and gaps to services.
Within two short years, the Collaborative is doing just that.
Monmouth County Recovery Collaborative in Action
At their July 2021 New Jersey family reunion, Michael, a longtime resident of Monmouth County who had relocated with his wife to Florida, was alarmed to see his brother Tom in an awful state. Tom, a veteran, was living through the aftermath of his service; he was struggling with alcoholism, living in deplorable conditions and facing homelessness. Michael wanted his brother to get better but could not convince him to seek help. Michael called the Collaborative and was connected to Victoria (Vicky) Wilson, Case Manager for the Monmouth Innovation Program at IFPR. Vicky spent a lot of time with Tom and quickly got to know him.
“He’s interesting, witty, a well-rounded gentleman. He gets people together,” said Vicky. Through the Collaborative, she got Tom involved in a handful of organizations such as Soldier On, Adult Protection Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and DSS.
Vicky also connected Tom to Kevin Murphy, another social worker and fellow veteran who naturally bonded with him. Kevin, Vicky, and many others, including Lynn Seaward, former Assistant Director at IFPR and current Director of the Monmouth County Division of Behavioral Health, worked together to convince Tom to get the care he needed. After a series of phone calls to other agencies and individuals involved in the Collaborative, the team coordinated the EMS dispatch to Tom’s apartment.
“The EMS team was eager to go above and beyond because of what they heard about the Collaborative,” Vicky said.
Now, Tom lives at the Jersey Shore Center where he is head of Bingo and eight months sober.
Michael was so pleased with how the Collaborative helped Tom, he reached out to Vicky to see if she could help his sister, Chris. Like Tom, Chris was struggling with SUD, living in unsafe conditions and experiencing poor mental health. Together, Vicky and Kevin visited Chris several times despite her living outside of Monmouth County. They connected her to Mental Health Emergency Services and helped her move to the Jersey Shore Center to be with Tom.
“My brother is excited that she’s there,” said Michael. “He takes her outside, to play Bingo, to play cards. Tom visits her every day.”
Since the Collaborative’s intervention, Chris is also sober and in better health. Michael notes that they both seem to be flourishing.
“The Collaborative’s intervention saved two people’s lives. I really believe that,” said Michael. He recently joined a scheduled Collaborative Zoom call to share his story and to thank the members.
“It’s cases and outcomes like this that make what we do worth it,” said Vicky. “If we make a difference in just one or two peoples’ lives, we count that as a success.”
The Spirit of Monmouth ACTS
As liaison to the Human Services Department, Monmouth County Commissioner Deputy Director Susan M. Kiley has seen firsthand how when organizations work together, everyone benefits.
“The Monmouth County Recovery Collaborative was designed to bring organizations together to serve some of our most vulnerable residents, those struggling with SUD,” said Kiley. “That directly represents the mission of Monmouth ACTS. I’m so proud to see occasions such as this when collaboration leads to positive results.”
“Through this story, we’re reminded of the importance of every person that serves our residents,” said Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone. “Our social service agencies and government departments are vital to the health and well-being of Monmouth County.”