Fort Lee’s Vicki Sidrow recently celebrated 26 years as a champion of mental health issues with a nonprofit behavioral healthcare organization headquartered in Dumont that provides psychiatric and addiction treatment services.
Starting in the community and public relations department at at Vantage Health System, Inc., Sidrow continued in quality improvement, moved up to assistant director, and was named president and CEO in 1998.
Her interest in the mental health field started early.
“As an adolescent, I got involved in volunteer work in high school with developmentally disabled," said Sidrow. "My brother developed schizophrenia, and I started taking psychology classes in college and decided I’d be better at administrative work and received my Masters in Public Administration in Health from Rutgers.”
Sidrow has accomplished a lot at the community-based organization, including spearheading an application to create an adolescent residential substance abuse treatment program in Bergen County.
“I got the grant, and 14 years later, the program at Touchstone Hall in Rockleigh is well known in the field," she said. "I wrote all the grants that resulted in the expansion of services, new housing.”
On January 24, the organization held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Closter that opened a 16-efficiency-unit permanent affordable housing residence for mentally ill and chronically homeless mentally ill people.
Sidrow said the residence is the first Silver LEED certified affordable housing for individuals with disabilities in New Jersey funded through the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency and Bergen County Community Development.
Vantage Health System also offers numerous services that are available to Fort Lee residents.
“Fort Lee is a part of our original ‘service/catchment’ area," Sidrow explained. "We provide all the mental health, addiction and eldercare services.”
The organization’s website provides a lengthy list of services if offers, including community based mental health, addiction, developmental disabilities and eldercare services to individuals and families.
Among the populations Vantage serves are children with emotional problems, adolescents with addiction issues, adults with serious mental illnesses and elders with Alzheimer’s disease.
Each year, the local nonprofit serves more than 3,000 individuals and families living primarily in 25 towns, including Fort Lee. While the their central office is located in Dumont, Fort Lee residents can access services from the nearby Englewood office located at 93 West Palisade Avenue.
As the economy has declined, the number of people seeking help from Vantage Health System has increased, according to Sidrow.
“One out of four individuals have some form of mental illness, depression, anxiety, etc., or addiction challenges," Sidrow said. "Due to the economy, we are seeing more individuals who are depressed due to loss of job, family pressures, children acting out, etc."
She said their also seeing post-traumatic post-traumatic stress in veterans, bullying problems and gender identification issues.
"We see children, adolescents and adults with nine psychiatrists," Sidrow said. "We have a Korean-speaking therapist and a Spanish-speaking therapist to address community needs.”
Sidrow pointed out that the organization is involved in at the , helping residents learn more about the range of services it offers.
“We participated in Fort Lee’s health fair last year and will again this year," Sidrow said. "We basically have a table with information on our services, including services [available] to the Korean community.”
As other nonprofit leaders in the region, Sidrow noted that funding is a major concern as government budgets shrink. She said individuals have less or no insurance, and that donors have tightened their belts.
"Mental health, as an illness, has never gotten the proper attention for funding, even though its incidence is higher than cancer or heart disease, locally, nationally and globally,” Sidrow said.
Sidrow originally lived in Fort Lee from 1973 to 1977 and moved back to the borough in 2008. Although her hectic work schedule doesn’t leave much time for extracurricular activities, she still manages to have some fun in town.
“I play tennis at the Fort Lee Racquet Club and go to the street fairs each year," she said. "I’ve attended the opera in the park and spend time walking in the and along the river under the GW Bridge.”
Sidrow is also active in the larger community, participating as a moderator with the League of Women Voters of Northern Valley, covering more than 20 towns, including Fort Lee, and finds time to serve on another nonprofit board.
For more information about Vantage Health System, Inc., call 201-567-0059, or visit them online.