Meet Your Provider: Nereida “Nettie” Mendez, MS, LPC, NCC, PMH-C

Licensed Professional Counselor Nereida “Nettie” Mendez, MS, LPC, NCC, PMC-C, is a Behavioral Health Counselor and Recovery Support Services Coordinator at Zufall Health – Dover. Asked about her beginnings here, Mendez says that she “came in with the storm” – both literally and figuratively true.

Superstorm Sandy, one of the most devastating natural disasters in New Jersey’s history, made landfall in the state on Mendez’s first day, October 29, 2012. Right from the start, she witnessed the whole-person response Zufall provides to patients and the community in times of crisis.

Though she didn’t have the chance to provide direct care to patients after Hurricane Sandy, Mendez At that time, her role was Breast Health Patient Navigator, a role in which she provided one-on-one assistance to patients linking them to breast cancer screenings, diagnostic exams, and treatment.

Later, Mendez provided behavioral health counseling to people affected by the 2018 seven-alarm fire in Dover that temporarily shut down Zufall’s Dover headquarters. Along with her supervisor SVP of Behavioral Health Sarah Aleman, MSW, LSW, Mendez visited the Dover community center that temporarily housed displaced residents.

“We helped people—many of whom I already knew as Zufall patents—process the trauma of losing their homes, possessions, and memories,” Mendez said. “I helped them advocate for what they needed in that moment. It’s one of my all-time most meaningful experiences with Zufall.”

Mendez, too, came in with the storm figuratively. To come in with the storm is to make a significant impact and to shake things up in a memorable way. And that’s certainly also true of Mendez.

After about a year in the Breast Health Navigator Role, Mendez transitioned to a Community Health Worker (CHW) Program Manager role that was part of New Jersey’s Improving Pregnancy Outcomes campaign. In this role, Mendez hired and trained a team of CHWs who provided comprehensive case management to pregnant women in Morris County. She developed innovative programs like cooking classes and yoga for pregnant patients. She also facilitated a psychoeducational support group for moms covering topics like safe sleep, infant mortality, infant dental hygiene, and sexually transmitted infections.

All the while, Mendez was in school for her master’s in mental health counseling, and at one point balanced her CHW role with an internship in Zufall’s Behavioral Health Department.

After completing her master’s, Mendez found her next and current role at Zufall in 2018 when she applied to lead the Maternal Wraparound Program (MWRAP), which provides free and nonjudgmental recovery support to pregnant people living in Morris, Warren, and Sussex Counties. Recently, her role has expanded to encompass additional recovery support programs including supervising a Peer Support Worker for patients receiving Medication Assisted Treatment services.

Mendez finds great joy in her work, especially as perceptions of substance use have shifted from a moral failing to a medical problem that can be treated. Modern approaches to substance use promote several paths to recovery with many treatment options available in a primary care setting.

“I sincerely enjoy being part of Zufall and appreciate its value to the communities we serve. My work can be stressful, but I am fortunate to have a supportive team and supervisors who can help process negative emotions. I also appreciate the flexibility of being able to grow professionally, implement creative approaches, and address a variety of patient needs,” Mendez says.

A first-generation college graduate, Mendez earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from William Paterson University and a master’s in mental health counseling from Capella University. She also holds the National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Perinatal Maternal Health (PMH-C) certifications.

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