Get ready for Statewide Student Support Services

NJ4S launches in September 2023

By Sanford Starr 

As educators, administrators and students begin the new school year, the Department of Children and Families’ Division of Family and Community Partnerships (NJDCF) is working closely with the 15 New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services (NJ4S) Hubs to begin offering services and resources to support youth mental wellness.   

What is NJ4S? 

NJ4S is a new initiative, launching the 2023-24 school year, that represents one part of a multilayered strategy to improve youth mental health and wellness. It utilizes a hub and spoke model that centralizes the coordination and dissemination of a menu of services to schools and other community-based locations, or “spokes,” as requested by schools.  

How does NJ4S work?  

NJ4S has 15 regional hubs, each associated with a group of school districts. The hubs are the organizational centers for prevention-oriented services, such as prevention of bullying, suicide, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse. They will utilize the School District Needs Index, a ranking of districts, to prioritize service requests, provision and capacity issues.  

Prevention specialists and mental health professionals will be dispatched from the hubs to offer services to students along local spokes within the integrated network, which can include schools as well as other trusted sites within the community, such as public libraries, faith-based groups and community centers. 

NJ4S is intended to supplement, not replace, any social-emotional learning curriculum and/or mental health supports already in place in schools and the community and fill in the gaps where services or prevention strategies are needed, but not already offered. 

It’s important to note that the NJ4S hubs, not the state, are the coordinators and connectors to student wellness services. They are guided by local voice and a local advisory board.   

How will schools access NJ4S services? 

NJ4S includes three levels of service:  

  • Universal Prevention Services 
  • Evidence-based Prevention Interventions 
  • Assessment and Brief Intervention – Universal  prevention services will be available to all students without any need for application.  

Schools must apply to receive evidence-based prevention interventions, and assessment and brief intervention services for their sixth through 12th graders (middle and high schools). To access prevention and brief intervention services, an application must be submitted by the school’s designated NJ4S representative for consideration.     


Will students and families have to travel to the hub for services?  

No one will need to travel to a hub to receive services. Services will be “pushed out” to spoke locations in the community: schools, community centers and other places identified through hub advisory board input. 

My school district already has great youth mental wellness programming. We don’t want to change it.  

Participation in NJ4S is optional. Any existing school-based wellness program can remain in place. Tier 1 services will be available for any student/family that wants to participate. School districts may opt to apply for NJ4S Tier 2 or Tier 3 support.  

My school district is in a more rural part of the state/county. All the resources typically go to the urban/ more densely populated parts of the region. Will NJ4S do the same? 

NJ4S directs hubs to provide Tier 1 programming universally in the region. Tier 2 and 3 support will be provided to districts that request it based on need, as identified in the DCF Student Need Index created in response to P.L. 2021, Chapter323. This index controls for population size. 

For more information about NJ4S and updates, visit often.

Sanford Starr is an assistant commissioner in the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.