Lyndhurst Municipal Alliance hosting Open House April 5 for addicts, those with mental-health issues, their families

If you’re suffering from mental-health issues and/or are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the Lyndhurst Municipal Alliance is hosting an event designed for you and your love ones that will show there is hope — and there is help — available to those who want it.

The alliance, under the leadership of Public Safety Commissioner and Mayor Robert Giangeruso, host an open house on Monday, April 15, from 6 to 9 p.m., in the second-floor conference room at the Lyndhurst Fire Department, 298 Delafield Ave., Lyndhurst. A light dinner will be served so please RSVP if you plan on attending by calling the Lyndhurst Police Department’s Community-Policing Unit at 201-939-2900, ext. 2770, or by sending an email to either Sgt. Rick Pizzuti at or Det. Sgt. Vincent Auteri at Also please note — children are not permitted to attend this event.

The open house is designed to introduce those suffering from addiction and mental illness — and their loved ones — to resources, support groups and treatment options.

Professionals will be on-site to address questions and concerns.

There will be two guest speakers, as well, including Mark Gray, of Care Plus and Sophia Hetler, from  the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Gray will discuss support programs for families of addicts. Hetler will discuss her own journey of living with mental illness and the support programs available for those suffering from mental illness — and programs for their families.

Last week, The Observer spoke with Auteri, a member of the Alliance, and Joe Shinnick, the Alliance’s coordinator and former member of the Lyndhurst Board of Education. Both Auteri and Shinnick have been deeply involved in planning and preparing the open house with Megan Crispina, who is the overall coordinator of the open house.

“It’s a major challenge, of course, to reach out to affected families who need help dealing with mental illness and addiction,” Auteri said. “But people need to know there is help available.” And in organizing the open house, Auteri says: “Megan is an invaluable member of our alliance. Her vision and initiative are enviable.”

Now, since Lyndhurst is a “Stigma Free Community,” Auteri says anyone thinking of coming to the open house should do so without worry.

“Representatives from organizations will be there to help — not to identify anyone,” he said. “If they choose to come in, we will be presenting important information. There should be no fear. No one should think, ‘I shouldn’t go.’ Our goal is for people to come, ask questions and talk about their concerns. Their questions will be answered.”

While there is no noted age minimums, the program is designed, specifically, for those who are 18 and older.

Meanwhile, the Lyndhurst Municipal Alliance does much more than what will be on display at the open house. The organization is a group of about 15 civic-minded community leaders, staff members from local schools, law-enforcement officers, business owners, social-service organizations, parents, recovering patients and concerned residents  who want to help others.

Members include Pizzuti, the coordinator, Giangeruso, Shinnick, Laura Vuono, Auteri, Police Officers Paul Haggerty and Steve Passamano, Sheri Jarvis, Yolanda Garcia, Jill Tozduman, Denise Bellinger and Crispina. They do what they do on a voluntary basis and with a common goal to “promote the health and well-being of individuals in Lyndhurst through the reduction of alcohol, tobacco and illicit-drug use.”

All in a stigma-free manner.

“Stigma can be dangerous for those affected by addiction and mental-illness conditions,” Auteri said. A stigma is like a virus that anyone can be exposed to. The only cure is compassion and understanding.”

In the past, they’ve put on “Hidden in Plain Sight” — among many other events — a program that shows parents, using a mock teenager’s bedroom, just how easy it is for them to hide, right out in the open, drug paraphernalia, or stash items.

At that event, parents were invited to “tour” the mock bedroom and then later, discuss what they found, including items they might have been unaware of that have potentially dangerous uses.

“There are items such as open-bottom soda cans, carved-out books, etc., that can be used — and parents are unaware of them,” Auteri said. “It’s remarkable what they come up with.”

But of all the programs the alliance has been supportive of, it is the township’s early ban of potential marijuana sales in Lyndhurst that Auteri says is the most important. While the state has stalled approval of a law that could allow recreational pot use, you’ll never be able to purchase it legally in Lyndhurst if the state ever decides to permit it.

That’s because the Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted an ordinance late last year banning such sales. But the law goes well beyond just the potential sale of the drug.

“No land or building shall be used or allowed to be used for the growing, cultivating, processing, storing, transporting or selling of recreation and/or medical marijuana, its derivatives or agents,” the ordinance reads. The same is true for any sort of marijuana-related paraphernalia.

Violation of the ordinance carries a fine of up to $2,000, up to 90 days in prison and up to 90 days of court-ordered community service, set at the discretion of the Lyndhurst Municipal Court Judge.

In all, the alliance continues to work diligently to ensure Lyndhurst is a place where stigmas are a thing of the past — and where those who suffer from mental illnesses and addiction will always have a place to turn, especially for the township’s young people.

“The alliance has a great working relationship with the Lyndhurst Board of Education” Auteri said. “Superintendent Anthony Grieco, and LHS Principal Laura Vuono and her staff, have all played integral roles in sharing our substance-abuse prevention and education programs with the youth of our township.”

Learn more about the Lyndhurst Municipal Alliance by visiting

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.