Cape Assist is dedicated to preventing and treating substance abuse and related issues in Cape May County through education, advocacy, counseling, and community collaboration.
Cape Assist’s roots date back to 1981, when five individuals - Dr. James F. Manlandro, Maureen Manlandro, Suzanne E. Sweikart, James J. Callanan, and Dorothy Stricklin - were determined to educate the youth in Cape May County on the dangers of alcohol and the problems it caused if abused. They visited schools and made presentations; they advocated for funding and kept the issue of alcohol abuse in the forefront at community meetings.
After receiving a $25,000 seed grant from the State Department of Health, the agency initially named the Cape May County Council on Alcoholism began offering services to aid both adults and youth, including providing Student Assistance Counselors in area school districts, public awareness campaigns, and promoting public policy news.
Demand for services grew, and in 1987, the first full-time counselor was hired. That same year, the agency hosted its first Legislative Breakfast where the public and their elected officials met and discussed legislation on alcohol – a tradition that continues.
The agency also rebranded that year to include the words “drug abuse”, becoming the Cape May County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Inc. It was determined that addiction was the problem, no matter what the substance. Prevention was emerging as a science-based field with state certification.
Over the next five years, the agency experienced significant growth - in programs and staff. New services were added such as puppet curriculums for pre-school and elementary school children, a Service Provider Directory, a community resource center, a billboard project, and an annual conference for recovering women.
In 1993, the agency rebranded again, as Cape Assist. The new name was easier to remember, more recognizable and reflected the organization’s positive work.
In subsequent years, Cape Assist increased its programs and service offerings to include underage drinking programs (We Check for 21), Smoke-Free Dining Guide, children's after-school program (K.A.R.E.), and senior outreach services. The organization also introduced the Healthy Community Coalition and hosted events such as the Tree of Hope and the Peer Leadership Conference.
Today, Cape Assist is strongly positioned as the leading prevention and treatment agency serving Cape May County residents. The organization’s work with adult and youth populations is vital to the community and it looks forward to providing such services for as long as they are necessary.