Parsippany, NJ – It began with family members meeting around each other’s kitchen tables attempting to help their children and other young adults struggling to recover from a debilitating mental illness. By 1985, those families – aided by mental health professionals -- had formed the nonprofit organization Project Hope and would soon open their first residence for five young adults transitioning from Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital back to community and family life. Twenty-five years later, the organization now known as Community Hope serves 300 individuals a day within its residential recovery programs.
“At that time there were few community residences and those were time-limited, a situation that set up two-revolving doors, one at the hospitals and the other at the few community residences that were available,” said Founder and Board President Carmela Lunt. “Long-term housing was a critical gap in the system. It was essential to the stability and continuity that is so important to recovery.”
Since then, Community Hope has developed:
- Residential recovery programs offering 24-hour and daily living assistance to more than 125 young adults and adults with mental illness reside in the agency’s
- A supportive housing program helping 70 additional individuals to live independently with access to affordable housing and the support of their one-to-one counselor
- The 95-bed Hope for Veterans Transitional Housing Program, opened as the largest in the State for homeless veterans in 2004 and expanded in 2008
For the success of Community Hope’s model in addressing innovative approaches and aiding individuals in their recovery, the organization was selected as the 2009 Outstanding Provider by the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies (NJAMHA).
CEO J. Michael Armstrong stressed that the Board is “proactive in breaking new ground to create programs that respond to the challenges of those in our communities who are impacted by mental illness. These innovative programs have included reaching out to populations not traditionally viewed as having been impacted by mental illness, in particular our veterans, many of whom have struggled with homelessness as a direct result of this illness and substance abuse. In response, we developed the Hope for Veterans Transitional Program that has served nearly 400 homeless servicemen and women in the past five years. ”
He further cited the CHAMP and Partnership Programs that Community Hope operates with its partner agency, Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare, at the Greystone Hospital campus: “The CHAMP and Partnership Programs began with pilot projects to assist those who have been institutionalized for decades to start a re-entry back to society. These specialized programs were effective and have expanded nearly ten-fold since 2000 so that we can help 90 former patients a day to successfully rejoin family and community life.
Community Hope is planning several activities throughout the year in recognition of its 25th anniversary, beginning with a celebration at its Hope for Veterans Program later this month to commemorate the nearly 400 veterans who have been served since the program opened five year ago. A reception is being planned for family members, friends and volunteers of the organization this Spring.