As New Jersey moves deeper into Stage 2 of its reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some services that made the transition to all-virtual beginning in March have found that it may be more convenient to remain online for now.

That includes mental health counseling offered by groups such as Jewish Family & Children's Service of Greater Mercer County, which said much of its clientele is elderly or immuno-compromised and has become comfortable with getting help via phone or the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

"For the long term, perhaps there can be some type of hybrid of people who eventually are comfortable coming in and it's deemed safe by the state," Beth Dempsey-Rule, JFCS manager of operations, said.

She said the onset of the pandemic was a high-anxiety time for everyone, even JFCS staff, but that it is to their credit that the organization's clients have reported a "seamless" transition to distanced counseling, as time spent in isolation has accelerated everyone coming to terms with their own mental health and standard of self-care.

Even one JFCS client who contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized was able to continue receiving mental health services due to the move online, according to Dempsey-Rule.

As coronavirus restrictions have started to ease in New Jersey, teletherapy may remain a welcome opportunity for anyone who may have difficulties securing transportation to an in-person appointment, but Dempsey-Rule said the final piece of that puzzle is getting insurance companies to recognize the importance of that option for JFCS and all similar groups.

Also new to this nonprofit's offerings in particular are "drop-in" hours, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, during which callers can check in with a counselor over a 30-minute session to address any heightened fears or feelings related to the pandemic.

JFCS additionally holds weekly webinars and virtual support groups which are open to the community, free of charge.

"So if people recognize that after that drop-in call they needed more support, we can direct them over to our counseling department and get them set up with ongoing services," Dempsey-Rule said.

Mental health counseling is just one of JFCS' areas of specialty, alongside a food pantry and dedicated support for senior citizens. All of those elements have had to go mobile in one way or another in the last several months.

For more information, call 609-987-8100 or visit

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

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