Schaer: Mental Health Care Reform Requires Expansion of Services

Assembly Deputy Speaker Gary S. Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic) issued the following statement on Tuesday in response to Gov. Christie’s call for a more aggressive pursuit of mental health care reform after Thursday’s mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon:

“As he has done in the past, the Governor now calls for a commitment to reforming mental health care. In order to honor this appeal, his Administration, through the Department of Human Services, first must revisit its decision to cancel the call for applications for certificates of need for psychiatric beds and services , a decision that undeniably hinders the ability of vulnerable individuals to receive the appropriate care.

“Members of the Legislature and health care professionals alike have highlighted the urgency of this major flaw in New Jersey’s approach to mental health care. For far too many individuals in the midst of mental health crises, seeking help in New Jersey means waiting in an emergency room for days due to a shortage of psychiatric beds and services. Governor Christie has voiced a need to repair shortcomings in our system; however, comprehensive reform is not possible without stabilizing the system of care as we deal with the most urgent mental health care needs.

“The abysmal state of mental health care in New Jersey, coupled with the Governor’s veto of commonsense, bipartisan legislation to curb the sale of firearms to those diagnosed with mental illness, fosters an atmosphere devoid of both quality psychiatric care and overall public safety in our state.

“While mental health is but a single component of gun policy reform, we cannot take lightly our duty to help individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness. Faced with an opportunity to address a demonstrated need immediately and directly by expanding the state’s inpatient delivery system, it is incumbent upon the Governor to act now.”