2021 In Review: The Year’s Top News Stories and Awards



What with blossoming mutations, vacation/holiday infection spikes, and vaccine political warfare, it’s easy to feel like Covid’s first cleanup year has been like treading water. But an antidote is on the horizon, Covid mental health services are now available, and even Give Kids A Smile Day came up with a loophole. So we can look back on the eighth year of Your HHRS News and take pride in not allowing the lockdown to make us back down. Here are more of 2021’s most noteworthy stories:

Though it was born on Facebook, it was YouTube that took the interviews of special education teacher Chris Ulmer and his subjects to grow Special Books For Special Kids (SBSK) to three million subscribers and merchandising opportunities. YouTube pulled the plug when their advertisers discovered that sex predators were time stamping videos; but finally allowed the SBSK channel’s comments to be re-posted after more than two years: Chris had to re-post them manually, but didn’t complain.

When an online third-grade teacher told one of her students to stop fidgeting, she burst into tears and said she was really hungry because there wasn’t enough food in her home. The Fullfill Food Bank of Ocean County stepped in, providing pickup meals from local restaurants and help qualify for food stamps.

Since 2015, the Morris County Police Department has partnered with Morris CARES (Center for Addiction Recovery Education and Success) with providing Narcan to give opium overdose victims. In November, they revived a man who was their 1000th success story. According to Mount Olive police chief Stephen Beecher, “We know that we are not going to arrest ourselves out of this health crisis — we know that addiction is a disease.”

Colon cancer is one of most preventable cancers, especially with the help of colonoscopies for early detection and screening. But Medicare patients whose polyps are discovered and removed as a part their colonoscopies are billed extra. With the help of New Jersey Congressional representative Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (whose father, also a New Jersey congressman, passed away from colorectal cancer while in office), that loophole has been closed.

A program that would pair a New Jersey State Trooper with a certified mental health screener to respond together to 911 calls for behavioral health crises (including mental health incidents, confused or disoriented persons, welfare checks and suicide watch.) is being prepared for deployment.

When the fundraising gets tough, the tough in New Jersey get going: Unable to have their usual annual events due to Covid restrictions, Under My Skin For Life Foundation substituted their on-site tattoo stations with artwork created by the autistic adults they support for its ninth fundraiser; The Light Of Day Foundation ran their 21th WinterFest for Parkinson’s Disease by filming 60 performers in a closed Paramount Theater in Asbury Park; nearly four dozen bands peroformed remotely for internet radio station BlowUpRadio.com to raise funds for the 14th Banding Together: Benefit For The Spondylitis Association of America (SAA); and Give Kids A Smile Day was expanded into a month.

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