(TRENTON) – Seeking to combat New Jersey’s mental health crisis, Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer and Dan Benson are sponsoring legislation to significantly improve New Jersey’s approach to mental health care by expanding services throughout the state. The bill was moved through the Assembly Human Services Committee Thursday.
“Early intervention programs are designed to do just that – intervene before a patient reaches a crisis point,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Therefore, these services are critical in preventing the recurrence of a crisis and reducing the overuse of hospital emergency departments. Expanding early intervention programs and increasing screening services prioritizes this important issue and will have a dramatic impact on behavioral health care in New Jersey.”
The bill (A-2389) provides for the Commissioner of Human Services to accept an application from a screening service to provide expanded mental health services. The expanded services would be tailored to meet the needs of those in its geographic area and would include, but would not be limited to, establishing a satellite program that is situated in a location separate from a screening service and provides services that emphasize outreach and early intervention. Screening services are public or private ambulatory care services that are designated by the commissioner to provide mental health services, including assessment, emergency and referral services to people with mental illness in a specified geographic area.
“If left untreated, mental illness can lead people who may be suffering in silence to engage in self-destructive behaviors that also affect their physical health,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “By expanding EISS programs and other services, New Jersey can take a more comprehensive approach to health care and enable more of our residents to access effective, professional treatment as soon as possible.”
The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.