Family Advocate Program

Family Advocates are now working at the St. Mary’s Psychiatric Screening Center located in the city of Passaic. St. Mary’s Psychiatric Screening Center operates the Involuntary Unit for Passaic County and conducts the largest number of screening in the county.  Family Advocates are working directly with St. Mary’s staff in order to provide support for family members.  All Family Advocates are trained to listen, provide support and act as mentors.  Family Advocates have experience as a caregiver of an adult with a mental illness.  The role of the Family Advocate is to provide support for families whose loved one is in the psychiatric emergency room.  Family Advocates use “active lurking” a casual, friendly, non-pressured approach to strike up conversation with family members waiting for their loved one.  Support includes providing a listening ear and information regarding the screening process.  The Family Advocates also provide information on resources and services in the community as well as basic information about different mental illnesses.  Family Advocates are also expected to familiarize families with the location of the emergency room restrooms, cafeteria, public phones, and family lounge.  Family Advocates report to screening center staff every half hour in order to check on the status of the ill family member and report back to the family. Often times family members are frustrated because the screening process is taking so long and they have not been provided with any information.  Family Advocates are equipped to explain all steps in the screening process as well as patient confidentiality.  Our goal is to reduce the stress of families waiting in the emergency room of the screening center at St. Mary’s Hospital.  We would also like to increase accessibility to ongoing support services for families.  Through this new program more families will be linked to services in Passaic County and will receive much needed support.  Currently we have five Family Advocates working in the screening center six days a week.  Advocates work shifts from 4-8PM during the week and from 12-4PM on Saturday.  We are hoping to reach out to fifty families a month.


For more information, contact Erika Calvi: ecalvi@mhapassaic.org or 973-478-4444 Ext: 113