PARSIPPANY — The Mental Health Association in New Jersey honored NewBridge Services’ Victoria Ferlauto as a Behavioral Healthcare Hero for innovative leadership that has ensured the safe, steady treatment of adults with severe mental illness throughout the pandemic.
Ferlauto, director of NewBridge Services adult day treatment program, was featured in MHANJ’s 20th Annual Evening of Excellence, a 30-minute program to air on News12+ Optimum 61, Verizon FiOS 530, and MHANJ Facebook Live on Saturday, December 12. The show, honoring six mental health professionals, will be rebroadcast Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
“We are tremendously proud of Viki, whose efforts exemplify the entire staff’s commitment to our clients,” NewBridge CEO Michelle Borden said. Borden noted that Ferlauto “demonstrated deep care and concern for her staff as well as clients.”
Ferlauto was unaware she had been nominated for the award until MHANJ contacted her late last month. “I was touched and honored, and it came as a surprise!” she said.
“It must be said that the staff is all heroes as well, reminding society that mental health matters, now more than ever!” Ferlauto said. She joined NewBridge in 1998 and a year later was promoted to oversee both the adult day treatment programs in both Morris and Passaic counties.
When Gov. Murphy ordered the statewide shut down in March, Ferlauto worked feverishly over a weekend on a plan to keep essential treatment going. Video conferencing wasn’t an option, so Ferlauto went old-school: on Monday morning, staff phoned clients and used conference calling to connect them with group sessions.
“The clients were so happy we were calling them for the group,” supervising clinician Cheryl Schmidt said. Clients participated in daily skills-training groups on coping, emotional management, addiction recovery, and other topics.
Ferlauto planned how to safely have clients return to NewBridge for individual counseling sessions as soon as restrictions were lifted. As a volunteer on NewBridge’s COVID-19 safety committee, Ferlauto also ensured that staff receives and use personal protective equipment and that strict cleaning protocols are adhered to.
“She runs a tight ship, and is very supportive of her staff and compassionate about her clients,” said Derk Replogle, director of Addiction Services.
Ferlauto grew up in a tight-knit Hungarian neighborhood in Passaic, and as a young adult belonged to a semi-professional Hungarian folk dancing troupe that once performed at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall.
She planned on becoming an archeologist or anthropologist until she realized how much math was involved. “I decided instead to dig up people’s history, one by one,’’ Ferlauto said in a 2013 interview. As a student at Fordham University, “I fell in love with clinical psychology.’’
Ferlauto lives in Jefferson Township with her husband and, despite the pandemic, maintains close ties to relatives scattered throughout the U.S., she said. NewBridge, she added, “is like a second family to me.”