Howell business task force looking out for mental health concerns


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HOWELL – The Howell Business Recovery Task Force is partnering with the Howell Municipal Alliance to help local business owners deal with mental stress being caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The task force is a public-private partnership that is working to increase economic activity in a safe and responsible way as restrictions associated with the pandemic continue to be lifted by Gov. Phil Murphy. The group’s goal is to ensure the vitality of Howell’s economy.

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Deputy Mayor Thomas Russo, who chairs the task force, said stress and substance abuse are part of the pandemic for business owners.

“One of the unfortunate realities of the pandemic, the lockdowns and the ongoing restrictions on our businesses is the uptick in mental stress and sadly, substance abuse,” Russo said.

During a recent meeting, task force member Jeff Bassett, who owns a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Howell, suggested the members of the group look into distributing information and guidance that may help people who are having a difficult time during the pandemic and who may fall victim to substance abuse.

“I completely agreed with that suggestion, which led us to work with Christa Riddle and the Howell Municipal Alliance,” Russo said. “Knowing where to go and what resources are available is absolutely key.

“Now, information regarding substance abuse and mental stress is being distributed all over town and I could not be more proud of our new partnership and our commitment to helping business owners, managers, employees and anyone in town who may be going through difficult times,” he said.

“Business recovery is more than maintaining and improving economic vitality. It is also about being a good neighbor and doing what we can to help improve the mental and physical health of those who keep our economy alive and well,” Russo said.

Riddle said in addition to the operation of their businesses, owners “are worried about their staff and their staff’s personal lives. They are worried about their own families … financial concerns and just conforming with all of the regulations and closings.”

Riddle said individuals should not feel embarrassed if they need help and added, “My line is always available. We just need to look out for each other and to look out for ourselves.”

The following resources are available: Health-Support-Servi

• Howell Municipal Alliance, 732-938-4500, ext. 4012 (limited hours; call 911 in an emergency);

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255;

• N.J. Hopeline, 855-654-6735;

• SAMHSA National Helpline, 800-662-4357;

• Crisis Text Line, text “home” to 741741.

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