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Schaer Welcomes News of More Psychiatric Beds Being Sought

Assembly Budget Chair Pleased to See the Issue Being Addressed After Two Years of Advocating for Increase

Assembly Budget Committee Chair Gary Schaer on Wednesday described the Christie administration’s call for additional psychiatric beds as “long overdue.” A broad coalition of Assembly members raised the issue with the Christie administration two years ago after a series of roundtables with healthcare professionals.

“I’m gratified to see that the administration is finally addressing this issue. Based on our discussions with behavioral and healthcare professionals over the last several years, this need has been pressing and is long overdue,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Mental illness and addiction lie at the heart of so many issues confronting our society and demand a more holistic approach. The addition of more psychiatric beds to provide immediate medical attention in the midst of a crisis is a critical component to a meaningful solution.”

In a letter sent to the Commissioner of the Department of Health on July 30, 2015, Schaer and more than a dozen other Assembly members wrote:

“Over the past several months, we have hosted three roundtable discussions throughout the state. These discussions addressed many issues related to behavioral and mental health, one of them being our state’s inpatient psychiatric delivery system. Throughout these discussions, behavioral and other healthcare professionals continuously raised the need for increased bed capacity.

“Their inability to access inpatient short-term care facility beds, and in many cases specialty beds for individuals with persistent or co-occurring needs, has created waiting times that can range from three to ten days in emergency rooms. This prolonged wait time could potentially have a damaging effect for such a fragile and vulnerable population.”

The letter was sent in response to the Department of Health’s decision to cancel the call for applications for certificates of need for psychiatric beds and services which was originally due on February 1, 2015. Compounding the matter, the lawmakers noted, is the fact that the next scheduled deadline for such a call is February 1, 2017.

A full copy of the letter can be viewed here.

Schaer is also lead sponsor of legislation (A-1662) to create a “real-time” system to track the number of psychiatric beds available statewide to treat mental health and substance use disorders. The legislation requires the development of a data dashboard to monitor and advise of open bed availability for behavioral health services. It received near-unanimous approval from the Assembly in June and is awaiting action by the Senate.

“The need for a dashboard to advise on open beds came from the healthcare community during the three behavioral healthcare roundtables that we held. With the impending addition of nearly 900 beds to the system, it is now even more necessary and prudent than ever that we get this bill done,” added Schaer.