Schaer Introduces 3-Bill Package to Improve Behavioral Health Care in New Jersey

(TRENTON) – Assembly Budget Chairman Gary Schaer on Thursday announced he will introduce a three-bill legislative package designed to improve behavioral health crisis care by expanding and improving services throughout the state and studying new ways to improve care.
Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen) has focused on mental health care in New Jersey, among other issues. He hosted several roundtable discussions and meetings on issues related to behavioral and mental health care, meeting wit “We heard concerns time and time again relating to crisis services throughout the state,” Schaer said. “The result is this bill package that has gone through an extensive stakeholder process. Early intervention and support is paramount when it comes to behavioral health care. With these bills, we’ll be taking common sense steps to improve and modernize our services, benefiting patients and their families.”
h professionals and stakeholders in the field.
The bills:
· Expand the Early Intervention Support Services (EISS) Programs, currently available in 11 counties – Atlantic, Bergen, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Morris and Ocean – to provide for one program in each county. An EISS program provides rapid access to short term, recovery-oriented crisis intervention and crisis stabilization services for up to 30 days to an individual 21 years of age or older with a serious mental illness and includes, but is not limited to, medication, therapy and case management services, which are offered at an on-site location, other than a hospital, or through outreach in the community.
· 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 meets the need of the persons in its geographic area and would include, but 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 persons with mental illness in a specified geographic area.
· Establishes the Behavioral Health Task Force in the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services (DHS). The purpose of the board will be to review all aspects of behavioral health services in New Jersey and make recommendations for legislation or other such action as it deems appropriate with regard to improving, expanding, and facilitating the provision of behavioral health services to the citizens of this state. Behavioral health services reviewed and analyzed by the task force shall include both services for individuals with mental health concerns and substance use disorder.
“Studies show that people with untreated behavioral health problems visit an emergency room much more often than people who receive preventative care, and we know untreated behavioral health problems can lead to other physical problems that come with anxiety and stress,” Schaer said. “Our current services do an outstanding job, but we know we can always make it better and we need to do more. This is socially and fiscally responsible.
“In the end,” he added, “these bills will lead to better services but more importantly – better lives.”