A substance abuse prevention and treatment agency
serving the communities of Cape May County since 1982


Cape Assist started out with five dedicated individuals from Cape May County who thought students should know the truth about alcohol and the problems it could cause if abused. These five people visited schools and made presentations. They advocated for funding and kept the issue of alcohol abuse in the forefront at community meetings. They were our founders: Dr. James F. Manlandro, Maureen Manlandro, Suzanne E. Sweikart, James J. Callanan, and Dorothy Stricklin.

On December 18, 1981 they filed corporation papers with the state, and the Cape May County Council on Alcoholism was born. They carried their funding request to the State Department of Health, and received a seed grant of $25,000.

The first services offered by the brand new agency included public policy news, Student Assistance Counselors in area school districts, and public awareness campaigns. In 1987 the first full-time counselor was hired, and the first newsletter was published and mailed to a membership list. An annual Legislative Breakfast was held to bring the public and their elected officials together to discuss legislation on alcohol. The event was popular then, as it continues to be today.

In 1987 the words "drug abuse" were included in the name of the corporation and the agency became the Cape May County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Inc. Alcohol counselors and drug counselors, after great debate, finally realized that no matter what the substance, addiction was the problem. Prevention was emerging as a science-based field with state certification.

In 1988 services increased to include the Wellderly program, Employee Assistance programs and Professional Training. The first ever Women's Task Force began meeting and providing information specifically for women.

Over the next five years the agency experienced a major growth spurt -- in programs and in staff. Many new services were added such as the puppet curriculums for pre-school and elementary school children, a Service Provider Directory, a community resource center, a bill board project, and an annual conference for recovering women.

In 1993 a marketing makeover gave the agency a new trading name: Cape Assist. This was to reflect the positive work the agency was doing as well as to make the name more user-friendly. At this time the annual budget soared to $300,000 and seven employees - and the agency kept growing!

The Tree of Hope, peer leadership, underage drinking programs (We Check for 21), Smoke Free Dining Guide, children's after-school program (K.A.R.E.), Healthy Community Coalition, and senior outreach services were all new programs in the years that followed. By 2001 the agency had an annual budget of $900,000 with eighteen employees serving over 11,000 residents a year throughout Cape May County.

As Cape Assist moves into the next twenty years, it has positioned itself for greater efficiency and continued growth. In December, 2004, Cape Assist moved into a building of its own, upgraded resources, expanded programs, and restructured the agency. Cape Assist looks forward to serving the residents of Cape May County for many years to come.

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