Cherie Castellano (M.A., C.S.W., L.P.C.) is director of the Mom2Mom helpline at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-University Behavioral HealthCare (UBHC).
Castellano has long advocated for supports for mothers with special needs children. Her idea for Mom2Mom evolved out of faith-based advocacy efforts for mothers with special needs children.
In 2010, with a grant award from The HealthCare Foundation of New Jersey through the Foundation of UMDNJ, Castellano, who is nationally recognized for her work in peer support for law enforcement professionals and veterans, launched Mom2Mom. The program provides peer support, conducts clinical assessment, and shares resources with mothers of children with a range of developmental disabilities.
The program is modeled after two other peer support programs that Castellano established at UBHC – Cop2Cop and NJ Vet2Vet.
Cop2Cop is the first legislated law enforcement crisis hotline in the United States. The helpline (1-866-COP-2COP) provides peer and clinical support services; clinical assessments; referrals; and critical incident stress management to law enforcement officers and their families. Cop2Cop also provides outreach and access for law enforcement departments throughout the State.
Castellano honed her clinical skills as an expert in law enforcement psychological services as a member of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS). During the decade since its inception, more than 28,000 calls and 187 suicides have been averted through Cop2Cop.
In 2005, Castellano adapted the peer-to-peer concept on which Cop2Cop was based to focus on veterans. The NJ Vet2Vet concept thrives as a resource for soldiers and their families serving our country in the Global War on Terror. The helpline (1-866-838-7654) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is answered by veteran/peer clinical staff and counselors who provide telephone peer counseling, clinical and suicide assessments as needed, and referrals to treatment and resources available through the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMAVA). It is sponsored by UMDNJ-University Behavioral HealthCare (UBHC) and DMAVA.
In February 2011, under Castellano’s direction, UMDNJ-UBHC launched Vets4Warriors, a toll-free, 24-hour confidential helpline dedicated specifically to assisting to active duty soldiers at Fort Hood, TX, and their families as they cope with the rigors of military life.
Castellano has received multiple awards, including a 2010 “Community Effort” Ambassador Award from the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma for Cop 2 Cop’s work with the law enforcement community; recognition for NJ Vet 2 Vet from the NJ Jewish War Veterans; the New Jersey Civilian Service Medal, presented to her in 2009 by the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; an International Critical Incident Stress Foundation World Congress Award for Outstanding Response in a Mass Disaster; the Governor’s Excellence Award; the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) Rescuer Award and the Commerce Bank Hometown Hero award.
In addition, Castellano has published more than 50 journal articles and two books, “Psychological Counterterrorism & World War IV” and “Law Enforcement Families: The Ultimate Back-Up.” She is the recipient of the 2012 Healthcare Hero in Education Award, presented by NJBIZ.
*** She resides in the NYC area.