By ERIN ROLL
An Essex County counseling center will be getting some additional new space in Montclair.
The COPE Center will be leasing space at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on South Fullerton Avenue. The center will be providing counseling services there, while still working from its current home on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair.
Diana Fennelly is the president of COPE’s board of trustees, and Sue Seidenfeld is the executive director.
COPE is an acronym for Counseling, Outreach, Prevention and Education. The center provides a range of services to low-income clients in Essex County, including for opioid addiction, drug abuse prevention, parenting classes, and counseling services for families and adolescents. The center was founded in the 1960s as a drug abuse prevention program for teenagers, according to its website.
“St. Luke’s and COPE have had a long relationship, with lots of COPE [board] members being members of St. Luke’s,” the Rev. John Mennell, the church’s rector, said on Monday. The church and COPE had a few discussions over the last several months about COPE using the available space at the church. “We at St. Luke’s have so much respect for what Sue Seidenfeld and COPE are doing for the community.”
He said that St. Luke’s has a mission to be “a cathedral in the community,” a place where people can come for a variety of different needs, and he called COPE “a natural fit” for that mission. “It’s just another way to integrate into the community and serve God’s people,” Mennell said.
In recent years, Fennelly said, COPE has seen an increase in the number of clients requiring its services, and the group’s existing building didn’t have enough space to accommodate all of them in a timely manner.
“We just outgrew the building that we have on Bloomfield Avenue,” she said on Friday. And St. Luke’s was looking for a nonprofit group to rent out some of its rooms to, she said, so it was an ideal situation for both groups.
The space includes at least one large group room with a fireplace and two smaller rooms for individual counseling sessions. On Friday, Fennelly said that the rooms had just been repainted and recarpeted.
Fennelly and Seidenfeld said that the staff was very excited to be moving into the new space. “It’s just so exciting that we have the extra space, because our counselors are on top of each other,” Fennelly said.
She noted that COPE’s new rooms are next door to Toni’s Kitchen, another advantage in that a number of Toni’s Kitchen clients, or guests, are also COPE clients. Toni’s Kitchen is the food ministry of St. Luke’s Church.
The new space will offer the same services that are offered at COPE’s main facility on Bloomfield Avenue.
COPE’s services include transitional programs for people who have just gotten out of prison, a drug counseling program, parenting classes for families with young children, and empowerment groups for teenage boys and girls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Jersey saw a 16.4 percent increase in drug overdose-related deaths between 2014 and 2015, the most recent statistics available.
In his State of the State address in January, Gov. Chris Christie declared opioid addiction to be a public health crisis, and signed an executive order devoting more resources to addiction treatment. The state also launched a website, REACHNJ, and a companion 24-hour phone hotline for people seeking help with an addiction.
Fennelly said COPE was hoping to have a grand opening ceremony, most likely in mid-May.
COPE will be presenting its 33rd annual Derby Day fundraiser on May 6 at the Montclair Art Museum.
All of the proceeds from Derby Day will go to help COPE’s operating expenses, Fennelly said, and she noted that COPE has also gotten a grant from Partners for Health.
Seidenfeld said COPE had also just received a grant from the Hyde and Watson Foundation; that money is being used to buy equipment such as computers and a new phone system.
Fennelly said it was possible that COPE may be able to expand its services to offer more types of counseling, and to expand its client base to include families who aren’t necessarily low-income. She noted that St. Luke’s is in close proximity to other destinations in central Montclair, such as the Montclair Public Library.
“Eventually, we’re going to be a community counseling center,” Seidenfeld said.