Preferred Behavioral Health Group Awarded Million Dollar Grant to Benefit Ocean County Families

September 24, 2019—

Ocean County, NJ – The Nicholson Foundation has awarded Preferred Behavioral Health Group (PBHG) a $1.1 million grant to pilot a project in Ocean County that will benefit Ocean County infants and toddlers aged 0-36 months and their parents who are recovering from a substance use disorder.

The In-Home Recovery Program (IHRP) will be run in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, the Yale Center for Child Studies, and the NJ Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P).

The IHRP will provide the support needed for families to remain in their homes while parents are receiving treatment for substance use disorders. Child and family therapists and family support specialists will work closely with the enrolled families and offer parenting education, linkages and referrals to community resources, problem-solving tools, and more.

“Too often we see young children removed from their homes which can cause irreparable trauma while adding further stress to parents who are struggling to stay in recovery,” said Tara Chalakani, PBHG Vice President of Mental Health Services for Youth and Families and the project lead. “Rather than weaken family bonds through separation, we expect to strengthen the bonds between parent and child.”

Yale University piloted this program in Connecticut for one county, and its success is spreading through the state and now is active in 18 Connecticut counties. The Nicholson Foundation, based in Newark, is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in New Jersey. “As we watched the success of this program in Connecticut, we wanted to bring it to New Jersey, said Shannon Ayers, PhD, Senior Program Officer for The Nicholson Foundation. “We chose Ocean County based on the proliferation of individuals struggling with opioid use disorders, and we chose Preferred Behavioral Health Group to manage the project due to their 40 plus years of experience providing mental health and substance use programs and services for all ages,” she continued.

“Parental separation is one of the greatest traumas of childhood, so if we can provide the supports to keep babies and toddlers in a stable environment in their home, we may be able to stop the cycle.” Chalakani said.

Hiring for the program is in process, and families will be enrolled beginning in January of 2020. It is an 18-month pilot project. For more information, email For IHRP job listings, see


Preferred Behavioral Health Group is a non-profit organization that has served the community for over 40 years.  PBHG provides mental health and substance abuse education, prevention, support and treatment.  Its mission is to deliver quality and compassionate behavioral health services to individual and families all the time.  For more information: