For many years, Manuela Garcia has been a strong advocate for individuals with mental health challenges.
As the new executive director of New Community’s Family Service Bureau, Garcia brings a wide range of professional experience. She’s equally at ease providing intensive in-home counseling to multi-lingual-cultural children as she is training corrections officers and their supervisors, or delivering a presentation on the importance of prevention, intervention and collaboration and how it helps clients from relapsing and returning to jail helps to decrease recidivism. This training was held in Washington, D.C.
“Manuela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in the fields of mental and behavioral health to New Community’s Family Service Bureau,” Richard Rohrman, CEO of New Community, said. “I believe that Manuela can contribute greatly to FSB’s success and improvement and I’m pleased to welcome her to NCC,” he said. Garcia’s duties at FSB officially started on September 26.
Prior to joining FSB, Garcia, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, worked at the Mental Health Association of Essex County for 14 years. Starting as a team leader, Garcia supervised 13 case managers. She then moved up to become the association’s program director for Collaborative Justice Services, which aimed to improve services for individuals with serious mental health issues in the criminal justice system. Since 2012, she served as program director of Assisted Outpatient Treatment Services and developed, from the ground up, a program called Involuntary Outpatient Commitment, which assigns community-based mental health services and intensive case management to those who are court ordered into such treatment.
Her time at MHA, from 2002 to 2016, played an important role in Garcia’s professional development. “They really helped me grow,” she said. During that time, she became something of an expert on the dire need for both mental health training and services inside corrections facilities. She wants to see more group homes and structured living facilities created in communities to help individuals with mental health issues that often end up in jail instead.
Garcia has worked in the field of mental health for more than 20 years, with one of her first positions as an intern at Bellevue Medical Center in New York City, where she assisted with the admission of patients in the psychiatric emergency room.
As a supervisor, Garcia said her motto is to strive to be “firm, fair and flexible.”
She has big hopes for the future of FSB, but first Garcia is tackling. “There’s a lot but I know we can do it and our goal is good to great” she said.
Growing up, Garcia wanted to become a doctor but when she became medically ill during college, her life took a different course. A social worker at the hospital suggested Garcia consider the profession of social work instead. In 1995, Garcia graduated from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and earned her master’s in social work at Rutgers University in 2000. She grew up in the Ironbound section of Newark and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, and proficient in American Sign Language.
In her free time, she enjoys traveling, running and spending time with family, friends and godchildren.