MORRIS COUNTY — The Morris County Veterans Services Office (VSO) is expanding accommodations and key services to assist veterans and their families under a plan launched by the Morris County Board of County Commissioners.
The Commissioners have approved an infusion of $300,000 to expand and continue veteran programs the Commissioners first created in 2021 with $350,000 while additionally approving an expansion of county VSO facilities at the county complex in Morris Township. Morris County has expanded its VSO staff to handle the growing caseload of veterans seeking services.
“The county is nearly doubling funding for a recently launched veterans program and more than doubling facility space for veterans services. Morris County is committed to our veterans. They served our country selflessly. Some were wounded physically and/or mentally and have earned our gratitude and ongoing support,” stated Commissioner Director John Krickus, a Marine Corps veteran.
Morris County will continue programs initially approved in late 2021 to provide mental health support services for veterans and their family members and assist them with skills to sustain long-term stabilization within our community. The $300,000 being committed this year will support additional services for emergency shelter, eviction prevention, housing access, transportation, and food security.
Morris County is expanding the VSO into adjacent, county-owned offices at the Morris View Health Care Center off West Hanover Avenue in Morris Township. The added room will more than double the space available to support veterans and their families.
A primary service the county veterans officers provides is helping veterans apply for and obtain benefits through the federal Veterans Administration Clinic, which also has an office nearby.
The expanded space will provide additional room for Morris County’s Morris Area Paratransit System (MAPS), which some veterans use to reach appointments and fulfill other obligations.
Renovations to the space the VSO assumes are expected to be completed in the fall of 2023.
“Currently, we only have one interview space for veterans, which means we can only have one interview at a time due to confidentiality and being able to maintain their privacy. Having a larger space will enable us to provide services to more veterans at once,” said Shawnna Bailey, Assistant Director of Aging, Disabilities, and Community Programming.
The Morris County Commissioners determined an emergent need to increase existing mental health support for Morris County veterans and their families after the United States withdrew armed forces from Afghanistan in 2021.
At that time, the board allocated $350,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to provide mental health treatment for veterans and their families through counseling and support groups, and community-building events to provide veterans informal opportunities to connect with one another. For 2023, the county subcontracted with the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, the lead agency delivering a strong and successful mental health response for veterans and their families.
“We hope veterans served through these funds will obtain the additional support needed to help prevent situations of significant crisis, such as homelessness or eviction. The Mental Health Association will continue providing important mental health support services for veterans and their family members to build skills for better outcomes within our community,” stated Commissioner Deputy Director Christine Myers, liaison to the Human Services Department.
Morris County’s VSOs connect local veterans with federal VA Healthcare. They also support filing pension claims and provide referrals to other services, including home health services, mental health services, transportation, housing, education, and employment. The role of veteran service officers in the intake process is essential to sustaining the well-being of veterans. They function as a dependable resource they can trust.
“The VSO is one of our most unheralded treasures serving our veterans. The VSO is phenomenal—it’s a hidden treasure not many know,” stated Deacon Richard Reck of VFW Post 7333.
Veterans seeking services through Morris County are encouraged to visit the Morris County Veterans Services Office website, call (973) 285-6866, or email [email protected].