About The Division of Mental Health Services

A Historical View

  • The Federal Community Mental Health Services Act of 1957 provided funding to states to develop a comprehensive mental health system.
  • Prior to the Act, Bergen had already invested in building a comprehensive community mental health system. Bergen Regional Medical Center had designated psychiatric units and community based mental health services were available in certain geographic areas of the county.
  • Bergen utilized the funds provided by the Act to expand its mental health system. Acceptance of the funds required a county-match.
  • Bergen’s county match is known today as the Aid to Mental Health line.
  • Today, Bergen’s mental health system is considered to be one of the most comprehensive and effective in the state as demonstrated by a consistently low rate of admissions to the state hospital system, a significant cost savings to the county.


The mission of the BC Division of Mental Health Services is to assure that BC residents of all ages, from youth to the aged, who need treatment for a mental illness have access to care, regardless of ability to pay, in compliance the New Jersey Administrative Code [NJAC] 10:37.

The Division aims to raise public awareness that mental illness is a disease, not a choice.

What is NJAC 10:37
  • Code that governs the community mental health system.
  • Establishes the County Mental Health Board as the entity that provides public leadership in the development of mental health services.
  • Designates the County Mental Health Administrator as the liaison between the State, community providers, consumers of service, system advocates, local and regional planning bodies.

Quick Facts About BCDMHS

  • Serves as the Administrative arm for two of BC’s major planning bodies, the Mental Health Board and the CIACC.
  • Enhances the BC system of care for residents as community based treatment is far less costly and restrictive than inpatient care.
  • Staff attend an average of 6 monthly and12 bi-monthly county, regional and state committees.
  • Staff respond to an estimated 340 calls per month from residents seeking assistance and conducts follow-up to assure that necessary linkages are secured.
  • Staff maintain diverse partnerships with BC stakeholders as mental illness crosses through every fabric of our county.

Core Functions of the BCDMHS

Planning and Oversight

  • Requires recipients of County Aid to Mental Health funds to submit quarterly reports, participate on monthly planning and review committees and maintain on-going communication with Division staff.
  • Convenes and participates in monthly meetings of Board and various state, regional and local planning bodies.
  • Participates on state site review teams; facilitates independent reviews as needed.
  • Conducts needs assessments, convenes focus groups, tracks trends and gaps in service system.

System Coordination


  • Established and maintains strong bonds with system partners.
  • Facilitates linkages to community based care for residents
  • Organizes collaborative response to systemic issues.
  • Bridges service gaps by working in partnership with diverse system representatives.
  • Bergen County Schools
  • Bergen Regional Medical Center
  • Bergen County Police
  • Statewide Mental Health Administrators Association
  • Community Health Improvement Partnership’s [CHIP] Mental Health and Substance Abuse Task Force

Information, Referral and Advocacy

  • Through the Mental Health Board and CIACC, recommends and advocates for system improvements on behalf of all residents.
  • Assist residents who call or walk into the office in an attempt to access care or resolve systemic issues. Residents’ needs are successfully satisfied as Division staff:
    • Possess an extensive knowledge of the service system
    • Maintain an excellent partnership with local providers and state officials
    • Embrace a true commitment to serving the target population

Liaison between State, Regional and Local Planning Bodies

  • Staff serves as Bergen County’s representative on state-wide, regional and local planning bodies.
  • The County Mental Health Administrator serves as the State’s primary point of contact in all matters relating to mental health.
  • The CIACC Coordinator serves as Bergen’s primary point of contact for matters relating to the children’s system of care.
  • Staff remediates consumer access issues with providers as needed.

Legal Counsel and Representation

Bergen County Mental Health Law Project: A program within the BCDMHS

Visions and Goals

  • Raise awareness among BC residents that they can access the mental health system regardless of ability to pay.
  • Continue to monitor Aid to Mental Health funds.
  • Facilitate forums to address the proposed Comprehensive Medicaid Plan Waiver and the impact it will have upon our mental health service system and the residents it serves.
  • Establish a data collection system to track system issues and develop update County Mental Health Services Plan.
  • Continue to work in partnership with BC Office of Alcohol and Drug Dependency on the impact of the State merger of Mental Health and Substance Abuse divisions.
  • Work in partnership with local leaders to address areas of unmet need.

Michele Hart-Loughlin

Program Coordinator, BCDMHS
Administrator, Mental Health Board
Coordinator, Children’s Interagency Coordinating Council [CIACC]

Mary Raftery

Administrative Support, BCDMHS