In an effort to ensure the state is prepared to handle surging mental health challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Anthony Verrelli, Daniel Benson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to allow mental health graduates to receive an expedited license to temporarily practice in New Jersey was signed into law Wednesday.
Under the law (formerly bill A-4246), recent graduates of an in-state or out-of-state mental health program who have a master’s degree or higher, but are not yet licensed to practice, will be eligible to receive a temporary license or certification to practice in New Jersey during a state of emergency or public health emergency.
The temporary licensee will be under the supervision of a fully licensed New Jersey professional, and their license/certificate will only be valid until either its expiration date or the date in which the emergency is lifted – whichever comes first.
In order to expedite these licenses, the law temporarily waives some of the usual fees and requirements of an applicant. Once the temporary license expires, the individual can potentially apply for full licensure in New Jersey using the experience they gained while providing services during the emergency.
Upon the bill becoming law, Assembly sponsors Verrelli (D-Mercer, Hunterdon), Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) and Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) issued the following joint statement:
“According to the United Nations, the current pandemic ‘has the seeds of a major mental health crisis.’ Between mass unemployment, isolation from loved ones, fear over losing someone or dying because of a deadly new virus, and so much more, is it any wonder countless residents are struggling with their mental health?
“Our state was already facing a mental health crisis before this pandemic, which has now been exacerbated by the unprecedented stress and trauma New Jerseyans continue to face. One study found that nearly 40 percent of the adults in our state were experiencing depression or anxiety back in May – a number that was second only to one other state.
“It is undeniable this pandemic has taken a heavy toll on our residents and will continue to do so. We need to be able to bring in individuals who can provide mental health services while mental health concerns are at an all-time high. This law is how we can make sure our residents get the help they need during this crisis.”