EDITORIAL: West Hudson towns must adopt stigma-free zones as Bergen towns have

TWO TOWNS IN OUR readership area have adopted stigma-free zones … North Arlington and Lyndhurst have followed the way as have all but one municipality in Bergen County.

The time has come for Kearny, Harrison and East Newark to do the same ó and while weíre at it, we hope Belleville, Nutley and Bloomfield do the same.

We are living in a time of crisis. There are so many people who live among us who have mental-health issues. Many have serious addictions. But for whatever the reason, none of the West Hudson municipalities have formally become ìstigma free zones,î as our neighbors to the north have already done.

This newspaper declared, several months ago, that regardless of whether the town made the declation, that the Town of Kearny was a ìstigma-free town anyway.î

But making it official is critical.

One only needs to look at the Kearny Police Blotter for one reason as to why this is necessary.

First, we have one particular human being in mind ó there are certainly others ó who finds himself being arrested on a regular basis. Anyone who has lived in Kearny knows this person is in dire need of mental-health help.

So many have tried to help him. And yet, at times, there are still people who look at him and say, ìEh, heís got issues.î

Indeed he does.

But that shouldnít be a reason for not helping him.

Second, this area has seen its share of drug-overdose deaths, where many are still quite young and in the prime of their lives.

In one case, a victim was left in a fast-food restaurantís bathroom for 30 minutes before anyone dared to help.

This is wholly unacceptable.

There will be some who say becoming a stigma-free town isnít necessary so long as people are willing to do what it takes to help the mentally ill, the addicted.

But we firmly believe it will set a fine example for the rest of the county if Kearny, Harrison and East Newark make a simple declaration that theyíre stigma free. It costs nothing but a simple vote by mayor and council. Mayors Al Santos, James Fife and Joseph Smith ó what are you waiting for?

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