‘I’m in fear day and night’: Neighbors say they are harassed by group home patients

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WEST MILFORD -

A group of homeowners in a West Milford neighborhood say that they are living in the constant fear of the patients of a nearby group home.

People who live near the group home, which is run by Bellwether Behavioral Health, say that some of the patients have psychological issues. They say that some of the patients get out of the facility and harass them.

“We’re not getting a response from the state and that’s quite disturbing,” says neighbor Dory Kowal.

Kowal says that earlier this month one of the patients walked right up to her property after midnight.

“I’m sitting in the living room and there’s someone pounding with their shoulder trying to get in my front door,” she says.

The family dog was inside at the time and ready to attack. But Kowal says that the patient still attempted to get in.

“It was horrifying and then to top it all off the van comes screeching down the driveway,” she says.

That van contained two workers from the facility who tackled the escaped patient on the doorstep, according to Kowal.

This was not the only incident with the facility, according to other neighbors.

“I lock my door constantly. If I go out to take the garbage out or get the mail, the door is locked behind me. I’m in fear day and night,” says Terry Stern.

Stern says that five months ago a naked man tried to break into her house, which is located across the street from Bellwether. She says that the patient broke lights and smashed windows before police caught him down the block.

Bellwether falls under the auspices of the state Department of Human Services. A spokesperson says that the department "cannot comment on the details of individuals served by the department's programs nor where they live.”

State Assemblyman Jay Webber says that he is trying to put pressure on the state to do something about the incidents to keep everyone safe.

“The well-being of the residents of the facility and the well-being of the neighbors who have welcomed that facility into their neighborhood,” Webber says.

The West Milford police chief tells News 12 New Jersey that he spoke with officials at Bellwether Monday and they are exploring options like adding more staff and relocating certain patients.

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