Union County NJ officials plan to address growing mental health issues

ELIZABETH – The 2022 Union County Board of Commissioners will focus on connecting with the community, adding mental health programs and services, and cultural enrichment and recreation.

Commissioner Rebecca L. Williams announced the initiatives during the county reorganization meeting on Thursday, at which she was elected chairman of the board. Commissioner Christopher Hudak was elected as vice-chairman.

As part of the Connecting Our Community initiative, Williams said the county is in the process of developing an all-encompassing nationwide fiber optic ring funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.

She said it will be completed in three phases, with the first two phases scheduled to begin in early 2022 and including connectivity between the district buildings and the parking system.

Rebecca L. Williams was elected Chairwoman of the Union County Board of Commissioners for 2022.

In the third phase, municipal buildings and police stations will be added to the network. When completed, the life expectancy of this fiber optic network will be 20 years and will help bridge the digital divide for better public safety and overall network reliability, Williams said.

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To improve the mental health and wellbeing connections, Williams will be working with the County’s Department of Human Services on additional programs and services.

Citing the fact that many people have experienced the stress, anxiety and grief associated with isolation during the pandemic, Williams said residents’ mental and emotional well-being is key to progress this year.

Christopher Hudak is sworn in as Vice Chairman of the Union County Board of Commissioners.

To create connections through cultural enrichment and recreation, Williams says a number of programs will be launched that will help define Union County as a community. She said there are plans for an arts and cultural drama development program for aspiring playwrights to develop their work with scenic readings, hiring actors, and renting facilities like the Union County Performing Arts Center.

She said a cut of the ribbon is planned for this year’s opening of an all-inclusive space at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield. The park will feature a playground with cross-generational attractions, traditional play equipment, and acoustic and musical expression, as well as the first meditation labyrinth in Union County.

The newly elected James E. Baker Jr. is sworn in as a member of the Union County Board of Commissioners.

A cross-generational community engagement program is also planned, in which young people can work with seniors on various projects.

“Social connectedness for those particularly included is extremely important to the health of our elderly population. And as I mentioned earlier, during the pandemic, I realized the importance of maintaining relationships and not being isolated, “Williams said. “The simplest things like phone calls, card writing, virtual hospital or home visits could change a person’s mental health and this project would be great for engaging our most vulnerable populations.”

In a private installation ceremony prior to the reorganization meeting, Commissioners Alexander Mirabella and Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded were sworn in for their next term and James E. Baker Jr. into his first term as Commissioner.

Email: srussell@gannettnj.com

Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. For unlimited access, subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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