Morris County Expands Veterans Services, Injects $300k in Funds
In a significant move to fortify support for local veterans, the Morris County Veterans Services Office (VSO) is set to enhance its accommodations, personnel, and vital services for veterans and their families. This expansion plan, spearheaded by the Morris County Board of County Commissioners, will see an injection of $300,000 towards extending and sustaining veteran programs.
The Commissioners, reaffirming their ongoing commitment to supporting veterans, have greenlit a notable expansion of the county VSO facilities at the county complex in Morris Township. This includes the addition of staff members to accommodate the increasing number of veterans seeking support.
Commissioner Director John Krickus, himself a Marine Corps veteran, emphasized the county's dedication to veterans who served the country selflessly, stating, "Morris County is nearly doubling funding for a recently launched veterans program, and more than doubling facility space for veterans services. They have earned not only our gratitude but our ongoing support."
The committed funds will be utilized to extend support services that were initially approved in late 2021. These include mental health support for veterans and their family members, as well as assistance with skills for long-term community stabilization. Other additional services will cater to emergency shelter needs, eviction prevention, housing access, transportation, and food security.
The VSO expansion will encompass adjacent, county-owned offices at the Morris View Health Care Center off West Hanover Avenue in Morris Township. The additional space will more than double the current capacity to support veterans and their families.
One of the primary services offered by the county veterans officers involves assisting veterans in applying for and obtaining benefits through the federal Veterans Administration Clinic, which conveniently has an office nearby. The expansion also allows room for the Morris Area Paratransit System (MAPS), a crucial service that veterans utilize to reach appointments and fulfill other obligations. Renovations for the expanded space are projected to conclude by the fall of 2023.
Shawnna Bailey, Assistant Director of Aging, Disabilities, and Community Programming, highlighted the need for additional interview spaces in order to maintain the privacy of and serve more veterans simultaneously.
This move comes after the Morris County Commissioners recognized a pressing need to boost mental health support for veterans and their families post the 2021 withdrawal of armed forces from Afghanistan. It was then that $350,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were allocated to provide mental health treatment and support for veterans and their families. For 2023, the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris has been subcontracted as the lead agency to ensure robust mental health support for both veterans and their families.
According to Commissioner Deputy Director Christine Myers, these additional funds will serve to prevent critical situations like homelessness or eviction, whilst offering crucial mental health services to veterans and their families, equipping them with skills for improved community outcomes.
VSOs in Morris County not only bridge the connection between local veterans and federal VA Healthcare but also assist in filing pension claims and provide referrals to a multitude of other services including mental health services, housing, education, and employment.
Deacon Richard Reck of VFW Post 7333 praised the VSO, stating, “The VSO is one of the most unheralded treasures we have serving our veterans. The VSO is phenomenal—it’s a hidden treasure not too many know.”
Veterans seeking services provided through Morris County are encouraged to visit the Morris County Veterans Services Office website, call 973-285-6866 or email MCVets@co.morris.nj.us.