SERV joins the #GivingTuesday movement

Help us create a Multi-Sensory Environment

for SERV consumers with intellectual disabilities


 SERV Behavioral Health System, Inc., which provides residential and support services to special-needs individuals throughout New Jersey, has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy.

 Occurring this year on Nov. 29, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick-off the holiday giving season and inspire people to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

DylanDylan runs his fingers through a bowl of dry rice searching for objects. This item in the Multi-Sensory Room at the SERV’s Progressive Achievement Center promotes tactile stimulation. SERV’s #GivingTuesday cause is to raise $2,000 to purchase multi-sensory equipment for our two Progressive Achievement Centers’ (PAC) rehabilitative day programs in Ewing and Cranford, N.J., for individuals with intellectual disabilities. And, if we raise $2,000, one of our generous donors will match the funds up to $2,000, thereby allowing us to purchase $4,000 worth of items for these two “safe haven” rooms. Our aim is to give our consumers with sensory impairments a place to go to where it is easy on the senses and even a little bit of fun. It is not necessarily a place for learning as much as it is a place to reintegrate or come back to one’s self to de-stress and regain composure.

At PAC, we serve approximately 75 adults primarily diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum disorder. Many individuals also demonstrate severe behavioral challenges.  Approximately 25% of PAC participants are on the Autism Spectrum. Another 41% are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and mental illness. We currently support two individuals with early onset of Alzheimer’s/dementia in addition to an intellectual disability.

In 2014, PAC, with the assistance of SERV Behavior Specialists, created experimental multi-sensory rooms in each program location (with minimal funds) to study the effects on our consumers. We have found that our consumers enjoy being able to spend time in the room when they have stress, anxiety, aggression or a need to get away from loud sounds. The multi-sensory room is designed to deliver stimuli to various senses -- vision, touch, smell, hearing, taste, balance, and relation to people/objects -- using lighting effects, color, sounds, textiles, music, scents, and more.

The variety of items in the room helps to calm the consumers so they can get back on track and resume their normal routine. We have also noticed reductions in self-injurious behaviors, stress, improvements in staff/consumer interaction, longer periods between behavior episodes, and better overall attendance at program.

Collage 2SERV’s current Multi-Sensory Room, created with minimal funds, allows Progressive Achievement Center consumers to enjoy a range of experiences that stimulates all the senses. Specialized equipment purchased with Giving Tuesday donations will help to enhance therapy, learning and relaxation for individuals with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder.SERV would like to expand this component of our PAC day program to offer a wider variety of specialized multi-sensory stimuli for our consumers. PAC has many individuals who are tactilely defensive (underdeveloped sense of touch). For the hyposensitive individual, we may use items such as putty or weighted balls to give the person sensory input. Weighted blankets and vests would also be beneficial to promote acceptance of the human touch. Among the additional items we hope to purchase for both venues are video rockers with vibration, solar system planetariums, sensory bubble tower lamps, fiber optic lights, auditory feedback phones, sensory games and a variety of textured materials.

We believe an expanded implementation of our current sensory room can help lead to more independence and self-determination for adults with intellectual challenges. 

Please consider making a gift in any amount to the Multi-Sensory Environment Fund. Remember, your gift will be matched by our donor up to $2,000. TO DONATE, Click here and write “Giving Tuesday” in the Description box.

Please forward this on to your family, friends and colleagues and share on Facebook to help get the word out about  #GivingTuesday at SERV.

Thank you for your support!


New CEO joins SERV

Regina Widdows, an experienced healthcare management professional in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, has been named the new President/Chief Executive Officer of SERV Behavioral Health System, Inc., a 42-year-old statewide nonprofit organization headquartered in Ewing. Ms. Widdows replaces Gary van Nostrand, who retired in August after 15 years as President/CEO.

In making the announcement, SERV’s Chairman of the Board Richard Anderson said, “Regina joins SERV having built a successful career serving consumers with mental health needs and intellectual/developmental disabilities. With critical executive-level experience, Regina will lead SERV as our company expands its offerings to populations in need.”

“It is an incredible honor to lead and contribute to such a well-respected, innovative organization within the field of behavioral health,” Ms. Widdows said. “I will be committed to maintaining and refocusing our energies on SERV’s core mission, and the performance necessary to accomplish our initiatives. We will build upon our strengths and deep rooted legacy to ensure our sustainability and success, and execute on our collaborative strategy in the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare.”

Ms. Widdows’ most recent position was as Senior Vice President of Program and Clinical Operations at Bancroft, a behavioral health organization with sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Previously, she held executive positions in hospital systems in Pennsylvania, including Haven Behavioral Hospital of Eastern Pennsylvania and Brandywine Hospital, and was Associate Executive Director of Lenape Valley Foundation in Doylestown, Pa.

A resident of Ivyland, Pa., Ms. Widdows received her master’s degree in clinical psychology from West Chester University, West Chester, Pa.; and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Temple University, Philadelphia.

On her first day at SERV, Ms. Widdows addressed the staff in the corporate office on Scotch Road and via videoconferencing to offices throughout the state. She said she plans to meet with staff personally in town hall-type settings to hear their ideas as to how SERV may improve and enhance its provision of services. 

“Together, we will accomplish our goals, stay true to the organizational mission, and continue to provide exceptional care,” she said.

SERV Achievement has new Chief Operating Officer

Damaris Piliro, a longtime advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), recently joined SERV Behavioral Health System as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SERV Achievement Centers, Inc. In this position, she is responsible for the management of a variety of services provided to individuals with I/DD and youth with behavioral challenges and emotional problems.

Ms. Piliro has more than 20 years of progressive operations and leadership experience, with much of her work focused on working with people of all ages with I/DD.

Prior to joining SERV, Ms. Piliro was COO at Generations Home Care in Delaware where she was in charge of overall program planning, development, administration and evaluation. Previously, she held various director-level roles at Loving Care Agency, NJ Mentor, Bayada Nurses and Beechwood Brain Injury Program.

Ms. Piliro earned her MBA in Health Care Management from the University of Phoenix-Philadelphia campus and her bachelor’s in psychology from Rutgers University, where she was a member of Psi Chi National Honor Society. She is bilingual and speaks fluent Spanish.

In defining her goals for SERV Achievement Centers, Ms. Piliro said she will focus on growth — ensuring that the company continues to develop its core business of providing safe and nurturing homes for individuals with I/DD, as well as building a consistent team among her staff with the “key standard of excellence, integrity and commitment.”

SERV names new Facilities Director

Byron Reid, Facility Manager for SERV Properties and Management, has been named the new Director of Facilities for SERV Behavioral Health System.

Among other duties, the Director of Facilities is responsible for supervising SERV’s Facility Managers in all regions where SERV operates and ensures that all corporate facilities comply with local and state regulations.

Mr. Reid joined SERV Centers of New Jersey in 1997 and worked as a Counselor and Senior Residential Counselor before joining SERV Properties and Management in 2003 as a Facility Manager.

Mr. Reid replaces Facilities Director Mark Dombroski, who is retiring August 12.