Healthy New Jersey

New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma

Site Logo

The Council

About Us

The New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma was established in 2005 under Governor Richard J. Codey’s Executive Order #58. Creation of the Council was one of the recommendations of the Governor's Task Force on Mental Health that Gov. Codey established in November 2004.

Following both manmade and natural disasters, from 9/11 to Hurricanes Sandy and Ida to the pandemic and war, mental health has been in the daily headlines, making an increasing and significant impact on our communities. In fact, it has reached crisis proportions.

After a long hiatus, the Council reconvened in January 2022 with a renewed sense of vigor. With intention, the Council members represent a diverse stakeholder group from across the state who can provide a variety of expertise and critical perspectives to ensure that they are taking a holistic approach as they examine and strive to overcome the challenges and issues facing New Jersey’s richly diverse population.


The mission of the New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma is to combat mental health stigma as a top priority in New Jersey's effort to create a better mental health system. Through outreach and education, the Council sends a message that mental health stigma must no longer be tolerated.

The issue of mental health stigma is one that is continuing to impact our lives on local, national and global levels despite awareness that is growing as more people are experiencing mental health challenges. The New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma champions this issue and works steadfastly to raise awareness and promote respect, understanding and change. Stigma must be eliminated to encourage individuals to seek help when needed. Mental healthcare services are vital and highly effective for addressing these health conditions and, as a result, empowering individuals to recover from or manage mental illnesses, achieve other important goals and lead meaningful lives. If the barrier of stigma is not eradicated, not only will individuals be at risk of experiencing more severe mental illnesses and other health conditions, but they will also likely require much more costly and invasive healthcare services. Therefore, eliminating stigma is necessary for every New Jersey resident, as well as the state overall.

The Council’s goal to educate and enlighten the public about the importance of mental health in order to eliminate stigma is paramount because this would lead to recovery and so much more for everyone. It is now known that it is likely that everyone will experience or be indirectly affected by a mental illness at least once in their lives. Therefore, it must be remembered that mental illness does not discriminate; people do. When we discriminate against those with mental illness, we are discriminating against our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, friends, peers, colleagues and neighbors — in every age, cultural, religion, socioeconomic, gender identity, ethnic and racial population. Embracing mental health and learning more about mental illness will enrich and strengthen the communities in which we live.

Council Members

Debra L. Wentz photo

Debra L. Wentz, PhD - Council Chair

Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., President and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, (NJAMHAA) is also Executive Director of its 501(c)3, the New Jersey Mental Health Institute (NJMHI). NJAMHAA represents 164 behavioral healthcare provider organizations serving more than 500,000 children and adults annually. NJMHI promotes equal access to quality mental health and substance use services through development of policies and best practices, training, research, and anti-stigma and antidiscrimination campaigns. Dr. Wentz improves lives by changing views about mental health and addictions in government and corporate leaders, the media and the public through innovative and persuasive advocacy, communications and education.

In June 2020, under Dr. Wentz’s leadership, NJAMHAA was selected for the Advocacy Leadership Award for Organizational Excellence from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.  In 2021, she was honored with the Roger Mansel Lifetime Achievement Award from Family Connections. In 2019, she was recognized by ROI-NJ with a Champions of the C-Suite (CEOs of the Year) award and by NJBIZ with an ICON Honors award. In addition to various other awards, Dr. Wentz was named the Citizen of the Year by the New Jersey Psychiatric Association in 2013; was recognized with the inaugural Codey Award from Carrier Clinic and the Public Service Award for NJAMHAA from the Council on State Public Affairs.

A sought after expert on mental health and substance use issues, Dr. Wentz has been interviewed frequently on local, state and national, as well as international, television and radio programs, and is regularly cited and featured in the media.

Applying a global perspective, following the tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004, Dr. Wentz developed the Sri Lanka Mental Health Relief Project through NJMHI with a local nongovernmental organization (NGO). Mental health experts and a cultural ambassador trained individuals in Sri Lanka to identify and treat survivors experiencing mental health problems. NJMHI also developed trilingual, culturally sensitive informational materials and worked with an NGO and professionals in Sri Lanka to develop and deliver training to community leaders in rural areas to serve as facilitators of addressing mental health needs. These projects have positively impacted over 200,000 individuals. Closer to home, Dr. Wentz developed the Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics program, which resulted in state regulatory requirements for continuing education units in cultural diversity. It evolved into the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health. Providing tools, trainings and awareness, it assisted thousands to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers to services.

Dr. Wentz serves on numerous Boards and committees including several National Council for Mental Wellbeing Committees; New Jersey Mental Health Work Group, Department of Education; New Jersey’s Multicultural Services Advisory Committee; the Healthy New Jersey 2030 Workgroup; and multiple committees of the NJ Business and Industry Association.  She has held many state and national appointments, and currently is the Chair of the Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma.  Previous appointments include the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Having served on transition teams for many Administrations, she most recently was a member of Governor Murphy’s transition team.

Dr. Wentz earned a doctoral degree from the University of Paris, Paris, France; a second PhD and MA degree from the University of Connecticut; an Executive MBA from the Alternative Careers Program of the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania; and a BA from Goucher College.

Heidi Castrillon photo

Heidi Castrillon

Heidi Castrillon is a journalist, communicator, and businesswoman of Peruvian origin. She has lived in the United States for more than 20 years.  She has specialized in foreign trade and as a promoter of important trade missions, and cultural events in the USA, Turkey and other countries.

She studied international trade at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and worked at the Peruvian Embassy in Buenos Aires, and also in the Peruvian Consulate in New York. She worked in marketing and sales for Unilever. Worked in Evergreen Marine Corp., One of the largest shipping companies in the world.

Heidi Castrillon is the founder and CEO of BIZ REPUBLIC, Public Relations, and Communication Digital Platform since 2008. Her business work has been aimed at the permanent promotion of foreign trade through her Biz Republic Magazine.

She has supported Latino entrepreneurship in the United States. This work has helped to establish relationships locally and national with many organizations.

She received the Outstanding Latina Women 2015 Award, granted by El Diario of New York, and received a motion of recognition from the Congress of the Republic of Peru, for her work as entrepreneur and leadership as Latin woman in the USA. 

She has been recognized by the authorities of Union City, Jersey City, North Bergen, and Paterson for being an outstanding professional who gives prestige to the Peruvian community in New Jersey. She received recognition as a female entrepreneur from Berkeley College in 2021.

Heidi is currently a member of the SCORE North New Jersey in the Outreach Committee, an organization that fosters vibrant small business communities through mentorship and education. She is a member of the Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma for the State of New Jersey.

Mrs. Castrillon serves at the Board of the Indian American International Chamber of Commerce Northeast Chapter G-100, (Group of 100 Global Women Leaders, empowered from across the world in a 100 diverse sectors). Heidi is now serving as the United States Country Chair of Public Relations.

Also, she is serving as President of The Hudson County Latin American Chamber of Commerce, organization that is advocating for the Latinos in Hudson County.

Emily Grossman photo

Emily Grossman, MA, CPRP

Emily Grossman, MA, CPRP,  Senior Training and Consultation Specialist at Rutgers School of Health Professions, began her mental health career as a peer specialist in community mental health in New Jersey. She has also served as a trainer for mental health providers and instructor on systems change work for large organizations and most recently served as the Director of the Training Institute at Coordinated Behavioral Care. In 2018, Emily received the prestigious Peer Specialist of the Year Award from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. She frequently speaks nationally about mental health recovery and wrote a book, Unlocked: 25 Keys to Recovering from Depression, Anxiety or Bipolar Disorder, which will be published in October 2023. Emily holds a Master’s degree in Education from Columbia University.

David Jacobs photo

David Jacobs

My name is David Jacobs and started my business career in the beverage industry 50 years ago. My wife and I own a large manufacturing company in Paterson, NJ. Our Company is called Olde Tyme Syrups & Toppings. I have been in municipal government for 12 years and still giving back my time, on serving different committees in the town we live in. I am very involved in serving and helping people suffering from Mental Health Stigma, it is very rewarding helping, talking to groups, and working with people so I can help make the difference. The reason for my great interest in Mental Health Stigma is because our daughter Marci has Static Encephalopathy from birth and today she is 48, she has come such a long way and has worked in day care for over 20 years. I look back at my life I have accomplished so much and want to accomplish so much more.

Rev. Jose C. Lopez photo

Rev. Jose C. Lopez

Rev. Jose C. López is a State Chaplain for the New Jersey Department of Corrections. He served as Chaplain at Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus He is formed a Protestant Chaplain at the Barnabas Health Jersey City Medical Center. Rev. López presently serves as a volunteer Chaplain at the Kearny Correctional facility and has expertise in HIV, alcohol, drug and family trauma counseling. He is a member of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), serves as a member of the New Jersey Notary Public Commission since 1980 and is a member of the American Correctional Association.  Rev. López was appointed by Governor Chris Christie and reappointed by Governor Phil Murphy to serve on the state of New Jersey’s Council on Mental Health Stigma in the state and is Board Certified in Clinical Pastoral Education. 

Rev. Lopez served as a Board Member of Jersey City’s PACO Agency from 1980 to 2002.  Rev. López began his ministry as Founder and Pastor of the Iglesias Cristiana Avivamiento Pentecostal (Christian Church of Pentecostal Revival) in1982.  In 1979, Rev. López served under the leadership of Reverend Roberto (Bob) Roman, who founded the Christian Children’s Parade. By the year 1981, Rev. Lopez, took the helms of leadership of the Christian Children’s Parade in Jersey City.  Under his leadership, he expands it internationally under the name Children of Faith Parade and Multicultural Festival where for 44 years he promoted the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month at the City, County, State and International level. The children’s parade was one of the only event to be held following the first anniversary of September 11 in the year of 2002.

It was at that first anniversary of September 11 the Rev. López innovated the Children of Faith Parade and Multi-cultural Festival, which celebrates children and families of all religions, organizing numerous community events throughout the year.  

In 2003, Rev. Lopez founded and serves as President of the New Jersey Center for EMPOWERMENT and Community Development Inc., which seeks to improve the quality of life for New Jersey residents by engaging, educating and ultimately empowering the clients served by the institution. 

Rev. Lopez is experienced as a grant developer, trainer and consultant within the nonprofit sector, specializing in faith-based initiatives, communication skills, fundraising strategies, organizational and board development.

Rev. Lopez, is Member of AETH- Hispanic Association for Theological Education

American Correctional Association recognizes Rev. Jose C. Lopez, as a Professional Chaplain of this association, which is dedicated to aiding the correctional community in the pursuit of excellence.

Rev. López is also honored to serve, as the New Jersey Hispanic Outreach Director for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), is a Board Member of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.

Rev. López is also honored Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) with The Illustrious Award 2016 Social Entrepreneurship.

Rev. Lopez,  a voting Board of Delegated Member of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, the State’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization.

 Rev. Lopez is happily married to Juanita C. López and has raised six children, Jasmia, Edward, Kathleen, Matthew and Abraham and Pedro, a beloved spiritual son and who have blessed him with Nine Grandchildren.  

Susan Tellon-McCoy photo

Susan Tellone-McCoy, RN, MSN, CSN

Susan Tellone is a Certified School Nurse and health educator with a Master’s degree in nursing and a Bachelor’s degree in mental health and rehabilitation. She has been working as a psychiatric nurse for the past 38 years with an emphasis on suicide prevention. She worked in the Emergency rooms of Monmouth Medical as one of the first PESS (psychiatric emergency suicide screeners), and went on from there to teach for many years at the University of Medicine and Dentistry on various topics on mental health, but specifically the psychiatric screening law of New Jersey. In 2008 Susan took a position at Manasquan High School as a school nurse and educator and soon after that, her school experienced one of the larger teenage suicide contagions on record. During her tenure at Manasquan, as a response to the suicide contagion, Susan took on the roles of Crisis Coordinator, Anti-bullying specialist and Master Lifelines Suicide Prevention Trainer. She co-authored a Project Serv Grant (Schools against violence) and was able to get funding into her school to develop a Crisis plan based on the Lifelines Curriculum that became a national model. She presented this plan at the National Conference on Suicidality in Florida in 2009. She was also the keynote speaker at the Annual Conference for Safe and Drug Free Schools in Boston in 2010, and presenter at the REMS conference in Washington DC 2011, International Conference of Suicide Prevention in New York City 2012, NJEA teachers conference 2014, and most recently at the Mental Health America Conference in 2019. Susan continues to present both locally and Nationally on this topic. Susan and her crisis team focused on the rebuilding of Manasquan School District with a renewed emphasis on strength and resiliency of the students, faculty and community. Since retiring from education, Susan worked for three years as the Vice President of the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County. During her Vice Presidency at MHA Susan through County and grant funding was able to bring the Lifelines Suicide Prevention program to over 160 schools in Monmouth County. Presently she holds the position of the Clinical Director at Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide where she continues her passion for preventing suicide among our youth through education in schools and communities.

Amy Spragnolo photo

Amy Spragnolo, PhD, CPRP

Amy B. Spagnolo, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers, the State University. In addition to teaching and administration, her experience includes over 20 years of curriculum design, staff training and consultation for the behavioral health sector. She also brings a decade-long commitment to training and educating the peer support provider workforce. Currently, in her role as the Project Director for the Academy of Peer Services, she oversees the instructional design and technical offering of 50 online training modules for New York Peer Specialist Certification. This is the only online training and testing platform for peer specialists of its kind in the world. Amy has provided remote and in person supervision for nearly 10 years and trains organizations on the use of supervision strategies. She is a NJ Crisis Intervention Training facilitator for emergency first responders and law enforcement professionals and serves the Chairperson for the Board of Trustees of a large behavioral health care provider organization.

Janon Wilson photo

Dr. Janon Wilson, LPC, ACS, HS-BCP

Dr. Janon Wilson, LPC, ACS, HS-BCP, is the Owner and Clinical Director of Compass Counseling & Psychotherapy in Hackensack, NJ. She has more than 15 years of experience in mental health, healthcare and management, assisting those in need, specifically individuals who are diagnosed with mental illness, intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities. Dr Wilson earned Master’s degrees in Human Services (Counseling) from Lincoln University and Professional Counseling from Liberty University, and her Doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. She is a member of the Women's Political Caucus of New Jersey; National Coalition of 100 Black Woman, Bergen Passaic Chapter; and National Council of Negro Women-Montclair Section.

to top