Commemorating Mental Health Awareness Month

Dear Friend,

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. For too long, those who suffered with mental illness were forced to hide in the shadows. While we have made great strides in understanding mental health and illness, we must do more in combating stigma and removing obstacles to accessing compassionate and affordable care.

As we commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month we will continue to advocate for progress to ensure that everyone has the tools and resources that they need to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Moving New Jersey Forward on Mental Health Parity

Last month, Governor Murphy signed legislation (A2031/S1339) into law that would improve transparency and accountability for insurance coverage of mental health and substance use treatment services for New Jersey residents.

As a prime sponsor of this legislation, I believe that access to mental health care and treatment must be a priority. By ensuring that every individual is provided coverage for behavioral health care services, mental health conditions and substance use disorders, we are closing the gaps that prevent New Jerseyans from accessing the care they need just because their insurance company does not provide adequate coverage.

Under this new law, the classification of mental health conditions that must be covered has expanded. With the signing of this bill into law, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder will be covered by insurance.

So often, those who are suffering with mental illness or substance use disorder forego care because the out of pocket costs are burdensome. It is time that we treat mental illness the same way as any other ailment or disease.

Healthcare is a human right which must include mental health as well.


Honoring My Friends - Leaders in Mental Health

I salute you Vicki Sidrow.

For over two decades, Vicki Sidrow served as Vantage Health’s President and CEO. Under Vicki’s leadership, Vantage integrated mental and physical healthcare, support services and affordable housing for those suffering with mental illness, addiction, developmental disabilities and eldercare challenges. Vicki Sidrow is a visionary, she had the foresight to set Vantage apart by expanding services to treat the underlying causes and barriers that make recovery and stability difficult to achieve for many.

After decades of hard work and dedication, Vicki Sidrow has retired from Vantage Health. Her extensive career has helped hundreds of thousands of people access the care that they need, without stigma.


I salute you Deborah Visconi.

As President and CEO of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, Deborah Visconi has transformed healthcare for her patients. After 19 years as a for-profit hospital, Bergen Regional Medical Center was reborn into Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in 2017.

Bergen New Bridge Medical Center is a non-profit healthcare provider that serves as a safety-net facility, providing access to acute and ambulatory care, as well as long-term care, behavioral healthcare, and substance abuse treatment.

In the wake of an opioid epidemic and increased rates of suicide, Deborah Visconi’s leadership is critical in ensuring that we are providing every resource that we can to save lives and help our communities prosper.


I salute you Joe Masciandaro.

Joe Masciandaro is a force in the mental health field. Throughout his career, he has established himself as one of Bergen County’s leaders and experts.

Currently serving as President and CEO of CarePlus, Joe Masciandaro has dedicated much of his career to improving awareness and understanding for mental health. Under Joe’s leadership, CarePlus has established itself as one of Bergen County’s premiere behavioral health facilities.

CarePlus provides our communities with comprehensive, recovery-focused integrated primary and mental health care. Their commitment to providing holistic options that serve the body and mind, such as nutritionists, case managers and diabetes educators set them apart from so many others.


I salute you Dr. Jennifer Ashton

Dr. Jennifer Ashton is known to many as the OB-GYN turned author and TV correspondent. Throughout her career, Dr. Ashton has been an advocate for women’s health and after the suicide of her ex-husband; she is now a fierce advocate for mental health and suicide prevention.

With the launching of her latest book, Life After Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort, & Community After Unthinkable Loss, Dr. Ashton is sharing her experiences with loss and guilt.

Channeling her grief into action, Dr. Ashton is dedicated to helping survivors find their own path to healing, while also raising awareness about suicide and depression.


For confidential telephone counseling, support and referrals to local resources call the NJ Hope Line.

Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

1-855-NJ-HOPELINE (1-855-654-6735)



Valerie Vainieri Huttle

Assemblywoman, District 37