Schaer Bill to Improve Behavioral Health Care in New Jersey Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Schaer creating a task force to take a much-needed look at ways to improve the delivery of behavioral health care in New Jersey.

The measure (A-2194) would establish the Behavioral Health Task Force in the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services (DHS). The bill is among several that stem from numerous roundtable discussions and meetings that Schaer held with professionals and stakeholders in the field of behavioral and mental health care.

“The purpose of the task force will be to review all aspects of behavioral health services in New Jersey and make recommendations to improve, expand and facilitate the provision of behavioral health services,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “It will take a look at improving services for individuals with mental health concerns and substance use disorders. The recommendations will prove invaluable as we move forward in improving mental health care in our state.”

The goals of the task force include, but are not limited to, conducting a survey of the current behavioral health care system on a county by county basis for acute, short-term, and long-term care; identifying gaps in the current behavioral health care system for the delivery of care for children, adolescents, and adults on a county by county basis for acute, short-term, and long-term care; and making recommendations to: ensure access to quality emergency behavioral health care in a timely manner; coordinate services among providers; facilitate access to comprehensive behavioral health care and treatment; maximize the effective use of available funding; establish new programs or revise existing programs; promote enhanced communication and information exchanges; and any other matters the task force deems necessary and appropriate.

The task force is to organize and issue a report to the Legislature and the Governor 18 months after the effective date of this act. After the submission of the report, the task force will expire.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.