Rowan College at Burlington County, New Jersey’s top-ranked community college, is going stigma-free.
The college joined with the Burlington County Commissioners, the Burlington County Department of Human Services and the Burlington County Coalition for Healthy Communities and the Riverfront Coalition on April 26 to celebrate the college’s decision to join Burlington County’s Stigma-Free County campaign. This initiative seeks to eliminate stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorder and assist those suffering from the conditions by increasing awareness and combating misconceptions about them.
“Rowan College at Burlington County is proud to declare that we are a Stigma Free campus, which aligns with our core belief that everyone should have access to quality education no matter their individual circumstances,” RCBC President Dr. Michael A. Cioce said. “We strive to create an atmosphere where every individual is valued, welcomed and celebrated.”
Burlington County Commissioner Director Dan O’Connell and Commissioner Felicia Hopson both said the college’s support was a massive development that sends a powerful message about the importance of eliminating stigma and promoting the available resources for those suffering from mental illnesses.
“Our county started a Stigma-free initiative to break down barriers that prevent those suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders from accessing the help they need, and we’re excited that Rowan College at Burlington County has joined on and will help magnify the message,” said O’Connell, who is the commissioners’ liaison to the college.
“By all of us working together, we can make sure no one suffering from mental illnesses or substance use disorder feels shame about their condition,” added Hopson, who is the board’s liaison for Human Services. “The message we’re sending is that help and support is available and that all of Burlington County is behind you.”
In addition to joining the stigma-free movement, the RCBC Office of Student Support publishes an online list of mental health and stress reduction resources to assist students and staff members.
“Rowan College at Burlington County provides students with the resources they need to succeed both in the classroom and with their own health and well-being,” said RCBC Board Chair Robin Walton. “The RCBC Board of Trustees is proud to declare the college a stigma-free space for all individuals and encourage students who have a mental illness or substance abuse to take advantage of the resources available at the college and throughout the county.”
Burlington County created a Stigma-Free Task Force last year to develop recommendations for how the county could eliminate stigma and the commissioners adopted a resolution designating all of Burlington County to be stigma-free. In doing so, the commissioners also encouraged all municipalities, schools, businesses and nonprofits to join the campaign.
In addition to RCBC, the Burlington County Association of School Administrators, the City of Burlington and the Burlington City School District, the Lenape Regional High School District, Cinnaminson School District, Pemberton Township and Mount Laurel have each passed resolutions supporting the Stigma-Free County initiative. Mount Holly and Evesham are expected to pass resolutions for their towns this week.
State Senator Troy Singleton also praised the college for joining the county’s coalition.
“Ending the stigma around mental health conditions and substance abuse is critical so that those who need the help, seek it out,” said Singleton. “I applaud Rowan College at Burlington County for joining with our county leaders in ensuring that this campus is stigma-free and a safe space for these students.”