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Brigitte Johnson, President & CEO of CarePlus NJ, boasts a distinguished career spanning over three decades in the legal domain, with a specialization in health care corporate compliance and privacy. Having earned her law degree from Howard University School of Law and graduating cum laude from Virginia State University, Johnson’s academic prowess laid a solid foundation for her professional journey. Since joining Care Plus NJ in 1998, she has been instrumental in its evolution into one of New Jersey’s premier mental health, addiction, and primary care organizations.

In her current role as President & CEO, Johnson wields her expertise to steer CarePlus NJ through complex operational landscapes, providing invaluable oversight on matters ranging from finance and budgeting to employee relations and compliance. Her strategic acumen and leadership have been pivotal in guiding the organization’s growth, including its designation as one of New Jersey’s original Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) awardees. Moreover, as a member of the Care Plus Board of Trustees’ governance committee, Johnson spearheads initiatives such as the establishment of subsidiary corporations and the formulation of corporate strategies, demonstrating her commitment to innovation and excellence in mental health care.

Beyond her responsibilities at CarePlus NJ, Johnson’s influence extends to the national stage, where she serves as Chair of the Nominating Committee for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. Additionally, her dedication to community development is evident through her role on the Bergen County Workforce Development board. With a stellar track record of achievement and a steadfast commitment to advancing mental health care, Brigitte Johnson stands as a beacon of leadership and advocacy in her field.

Care Plus NJ has been a stalwart provider of comprehensive mental health care and substance abuse treatment since 1978, serving individuals of all ages in northern New Jersey. Renowned for our holistic approach, integrating psychiatry, psychology, group therapy, and primary care services, we’ve set the standard as a model for other programs statewide. Our commitment to holistic care ensures individuals embark on a path to recovery that addresses both mind and body, empowering them to reach their full potential and enhance their quality of life.

Laura Siclari: My name is Laura Siclari, a partner with Outside General Counsel Solutions, and I am the host of today’s episode. I am really excited to have with me today who I consider to be a powerhouse in the mental health industry. Someone I’ve known for over 12 years at this point I think is 12 years, right? Whom I watched grow into the leader in chief that she is today. And that person is Brigitte Johnson, who is the president and CEO of Care Plus New Jersey – Care Plus NJ is a nonprofit giant in the world of mental health and addiction services all over New Jersey. Brigitte, welcome to the show.

Brigitte Johnson: Thank you, Laura, for that great introduction. And this feels like a friend, you know, talking to you. So really good to be here.

Laura Siclari: Absolutely. And we can maybe get into a little bit of our background later. But suffice it to say, we’ve both been living in this space for a long time together and it’s exciting to be able to have a dialog on this podcast about it. So Bridget, tell me a little bit about care plus in terms of what it does and who it serves.

Brigitte Johnson: Sure. So Care Plus is a mental health care agency providing mental health, substance use and primary care services to women and children throughout the northern part of New Jersey What’s interesting now is we’re not just limited to Bergen County, although we are Bergen County based. But I can honestly say we’re in like the northern part of the state now. We also have three subsidiary corporations, so we have Care Plus Workforce Solutions, which is a business arm that employs people with disabilities and who are economically disadvantaged We have our foundation, which is our fundraising arm, that supports our clients providing scholarships, financial assistance, housing assistance and medical assistance, actually financially filling in those gaps for our clients. And we have Paradigm Therapeutic Day School. Our most recent subsidiary which provides it, which is actually a school high school that serves 14 to 21 children who have emotional issues and need this type of therapeutic environment to succeed.

Laura Siclari: Okay. And would I be correct in saying that Care Plus really has expanded its programing options over the years, really based on finding a gap in a social services space for individuals, families or children. And then, you know, choosing to explore how to provide a program in that area?

Brigitte Johnson: That’s true. I think one of the biggest gaps and this is the trend with a lot of mental health care agencies, is bringing primary care services physically to a mental health care environment. So I think over the years we’ve known that there are chronic illnesses that follow our mental health care clients. So diabetes, cardiac, cardiology, cardiac issues, high blood pressure, obesity, these are the medical issues that follow. So a number of years ago, you may remember this, where we actually received a federal grant to start a primary care and that it into care. Plus over the years we’ve adjusted that model and we have a partnership with an entity called all have medical. So they actually have a site at our main facility where our clients can go in and get primary care medical services. So a major gap that I think we were filling that needed. And now I’m learning other mental health care agencies are really doing the same thing.

Laura Siclari: Yeah, I mean, that’s great. There are so many programs that care plus offers that I think folks wouldn’t even realize until they have an issue with it. For example, family reunification, you know, jail services for, you know, women coming back out into society after being jailed, you know, children that are aging out of foster care, for example, you know, so many programs that are so critical that, you know, folks don’t know who’s who’s offering them, but they, you know, they need to be served and and really care fosters all of that. You know, another one I think is so important is the children’s crisis mobile, you know, having a really drop of the resource available for children who are going through a crisis.

Brigitte Johnson: I think what you’re touching on is what they call social determinants of health. So you could say that we we fill that gap. That’s housing, that is food insecurity. It is people who are coming out of jail. It’s those who are on welfare looking for work or who really have a legitimate medical or mental health issue where they should be exempt. And again, servicing the whole family, that’s our kinship program. So that’s a program where the child is placed with family members and we’re providing financial and mental health care services to the families, the grandparents, aunts that are now taking care of and raising nieces, nephews, grandchildren. So I think it’s, again, a holistic approach to who the person is that we’re providing care and a lot of different areas.

Laura Siclari: Yeah, it’s it’s so important. One area that I have personally watched grow over the years that Care Plus is the school based services. So tell me about, you know, those services and I know you mentioned a school before, but tell me how the growth of those services at Care Plus.

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