NJ4S Bergen appoints 2 to oversee delivery of mental wellness programs and services

NJ4S Bergen, a coalition of leading Bergen County mental health providers led by Children’s Aid and Family Services, on Wednesday said it appointed Le’Var Starr as director and John Paul Simon as assistant director.

Starr and Simon will lead the New Jersey Department of Children and Families grant-funded NJ4S program in Bergen County with the goal of making prevention and clinical services easily available to over 133,000 students and their families in all 79 of Bergen County’s school districts.

With over 15 years of experience in youth community outreach, Starr brings hands-on experience in planning, implementing and overseeing youth programs. Prior to stepping into the role of director for NJ4S Bergen, Starr served as the director of juvenile administration for the County of Passaic for over 14 years, where he coordinated county mental health services and programming for juveniles and young adults. Throughout his career, he has developed a diverse skill set boasting expertise in crisis intervention, youth development and community outreach. He earned his undergraduate degree in psychology and his master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology from Hofstra University.

Simon brings over 10 years of clinical experience to the role of assistant director of NJ4S Bergen. He is a New Jersey-based Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Approved Clinical Supervisor. Simon joins NJ4S Bergen from CarePlus NJ, one of the coalition partner organizations, where he has held various roles since 2013. Most recently, he served as the director for CarePlus NJ’s School Based Services Program, where he oversaw the delivery of services to a number of Bergen County school districts. He earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from Rutgers University and his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy/counseling from Seton Hall University.

Together, Starr and Simon are developing and directing all operations of the NJ4S Bergen Hub to ensure successful delivery of mental wellness and prevention programs and services to Bergen County schools. In collaboration with local partners and community members, they are establishing programming that is responsive to the community’s needs through regularly scheduled meetings with the Hub’s advisory board, which is composed of community members, parents, students and school personnel.

“I’ve had a deeply rewarding career serving New Jersey’s youth and families and couldn’t be more proud to continue to give back to the community and help bring wellness and prevention resources to school-aged children and their families as director of NJ4S Bergen,” Starr said. “There is a tremendous need for mental health support and resources for kids today and I’m committed to working with the community, NJ4S employees and coalition partners to increase access to these vital programs and services in Bergen County.”

“Mental wellness prevention and intervention services are critically important to today’s youth, especially amid an ongoing youth mental health crisis,” Simon added. “I look forward to helping streamline, expand and build upon the available programs and services in the community to ensure all students have access to the support and resources they need to thrive.”