(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pam Lampitt and Shavonda Sumter to improve behavioral health care in New Jersey cleared the General Assembly, 78-0, on Thursday.
The bill (A-4470) establishes the Behavioral Health Task Force in the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services (DHS). It’s among the bills 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 board 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), who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee and has advanced several bills to improve behavioral health care in the state. “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.”
“This is another key step toward a better New Jersey for those who need behavioral health care services,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We’re forever grateful to those providing this vital service, but we know we need to do more if we’re to meet the demand and provide the proper care. This will help answer that question.”
“We need to hear from experts and find new and innovative ways to improve behavioral health care in our state,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “We need to ensure the right care is being provided throughout our state to everyone who needs it.”
“The different regions of New Jersey and our diverse population may have different needs when it comes to improving behavioral health care,” said Sumter (D-Passaic/Bergen). “This task force will help guide us toward making smarter and better decisions when it comes to improving behavioral health care.”
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 bill now awaits further Senate consideration.