Montclair, NJ – The need for a social worker, something Montclair Gateway to Aging in Place members had been asking for at council meetings for months, was validated Tuesday night. Montclair Township Council voted unanimously on a resolution to create a salaried position of social worker within the Department of Health and Human Services’s division of Senior Services to work with the residents of Montclair, including seniors, people with disabilities, and people in crisis.

Montclair Gateway Aging in Place (MGAP) members, who handed out their new buttons to promote a mission to make Montclair age friendlier, were credited with advocating for a social worker.

At a February event held by MGAP to address issues facing seniors in Montclair, participants spoke of how the lack of social work services has impacted seniors’ mental health and social isolation, something that was already exacerbated during the pandemic.

“This is because of you,” said Councilor Peter Yacobellis Tuesday of MGAP’s efforts. “Thank you for educating me. Thank you for educating us to get us to a point of unanimity on this. That’s a big deal. It doesn’t happen often, so thank you.”

Councilor Robert Russo, who read the resolution and worked with Yacobellis who drafted the resolution along with Councilor Lori Price Abrams as part of the Municipal Services Committee, urged acting town manager Brian Scantlebury to get the job filled as soon as possible.

“I’m a 75-year-old young council member and I want to make sure bureaucracy doesn’t get in way,” said Russo, adding that there are only two people working in the Senior Services division currently.

The position is being funded with some reserve COVID funding, for two to three years and then monies will come out of the general fund going forward.