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First 100 Days of NJ4S: Supporting Student Mental Wellbeing Throughout New Jersey

In the First 100 Days of NJ4S services being available in schools and in the community, hub providers have reported some bright spots in serving students and their families 

TRENTON, N.J. – Throughout New Jersey, many schools celebrate the “first 100 days” in the beginning of February as a milestone in the academic year, complete with dress-up days as students imagine what their futures might look like at 100 years old. The 2023-2024 school year is also the first that students – and their families – have access to supports and resources available through the NJ Statewide Student Support Services (NJ4S) network, an initiative from the NJ Department of Children and Families (NJ DCF) to support youth wellbeing.

In their first 100 days of connecting to and supporting students, NJ4S providers throughout the state reported steady registration and requests for service as school districts embrace the program.

“I’m thrilled with the progress of this network,“ said NJ DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer. “To see the development of this program, from initial concept to an important piece of the youth mental wellbeing continuum, is so rewarding. The 15 regional NJ4S hubs are developing creative offerings to engage parents, they’re advancing evidence-based prevention education and curricula that are proven to support youth wellness and wellbeing, and they’re becoming a trusted part of the culture in schools that didn’t have access to this level of intervention before. When I think of my own children celebrating the first 100 days of school, it’s grounded in thinking about the future, and with the growth we’ve seen so far, the future is looking bright for NJ4S.”

The NJ4S network is built upon a hub-and-spoke model, in which services are organized regionally – and delivered locally – to schools, as well as trusted locations within the community. Prevention specialists are dispatched from regional hubs to deliver tiered prevention services – prevention of bullying and violence, substance use, teen pregnancy, and suicide, among other traditional and contemporary topics – to address rising rates of anxiety, stress, and depression among youth in New Jersey, a trend that is mirrored on the national level. At the request of the school, mental health clinicians can also be dispatched from the hub to provide brief clinical intervention until the student can be connected to resources within the community or available from the state, such as services available through the Children’s System of Care (CSOC) within NJ DCF.

Programming available through the hubs is organized in a tiered structure. Tier 1 services are available to anyone in the community – students, parents, and teachers – and address a wide range of topics, from school readiness to classroom management strategies for teachers, supporting with material needs for families in the community. Tier 2 services are evidence-based prevention supports available to middle and high school students that are requested by a school representative to address a specific area of need within the school, such as chronic absenteeism or emotional safety. Tier 3 services are brief clinical interventions, delivered by a mental health counselor, to individual students until they can be connected to longer-term supports, either through private insurance or the public behavioral and emotional health system.

Tier 1 services, which can include in-person activities, virtual events, and online resources, can be accessed on the NJ4S website – – under “NJ4S Public Offerings.” Tier 2 and Tier 3 services are requested by a designated school representative, and to date, 498 schools, across 295 school districts, have signed up for access to the online request system. According to NJ Department of Education information, there are 505 secondary or combined school districts including charter schools in New Jersey that are eligible for NJ4S Tier 2 and Tier 3 services. These services are directed at middle and high schools.

“Anecdotally, we’ve heard from our hub providers that when they’re out in the community or meeting with school officials, and they explain the NJ4S concept, they’re met with overwhelming positivity,” said NJ DCF Assistant Commissioner for Family and Community Partnerships Sanford Starr, whose team oversees the NJ4S network. “Hub staff have noted that this is rewarding and important work that allows them to tap into their creativity and sense of community to build a supportive environment around the youth they’re serving. As we look ahead, our goal is going to continue working with school officials to maximize implementation and encourage them to access services through the online portal.”

In its first 100 days of serving New Jersey’s students and their families, the NJ4S network has already become an invaluable resource to support youth mental wellbeing. Hub providers and their key community partners have delivered 1,223 Tier 1 programs, attended by an estimated 39,000 individuals since the network launched in the current academic year. 132 schools have submitted 572 applications for Tier 2 and Tier 3 services, with 299 of those applications providing active interventions, 120 applications completed / intervention delivered, and 111 applications in consultation status, during which Hub providers local advisory board members and school representatives meet to determine the best intervention to fit the school’s need. The remaining applications have either just been filed, or a decision is pending, and services will begin to be deployed shortly.

The bulk of the Tier 2 and Tier 3 service applications have come in over the last several months, with significant month-over-month increases in the last two months. 73% of services requested are for mental health and well-being, followed by prevention interventions for classroom management / disruptive behavior, absenteeism, anti-bullying and violence prevention efforts, and more. Hub staff have referred students and parents for in-community counseling and support, concrete services (i.e. housing supports, food banks), employment / job readiness training, family and social connections, access to healthcare, and other public benefits.

“In the last two weeks, the requests for NJ4S-Essex services have significantly increased,” said Diane Travers, NJ4S Hub Director for the Essex County Vicinage, operated by Family Connections. “We have seen a 33% increase in requests for Tier 3 mental health counseling and Tier 2 prevention groups. We are excited to see the impact NJ4S is having on our high needs’ students in Essex County.”

“Burlington County school districts and community partners have shown tremendous enthusiasm for NJ4S, embracing opportunities to collaborate creatively in utilizing our prevention programs and intervention services, both in schools and throughout spoke locations,” said Stefanie Richardson, NJ4S Hub Director for the Burlington County Vicinage, operated by Legacy Treatment Services. “It has been such a pleasure building relationships and fostering partnerships across the county as we work together to better the lives of Burlington County students and families.”

To learn more about NJ4S, visit the NJ4S online portal:

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