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Vainieri Huttle: Christie’s DMHAS Restructuring Plan Raises More Questions than Answers

Human Services Chairwoman Questions Wisdom of Transferring Addiction & Mental Health Services after Joint Legislative Hearing

Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) questioned Gov. Christie’s decision to transfer the state’s mental health and addiction services from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Health after receiving several hours of testimony from providers and advocates during a joint hearing with the Senate on Tuesday.

“One thing advocates made repeatedly clear today is that the Christie administration did not consult with any of them to gauge the impact this overhaul will have on some of our most vulnerable populations. That’s extremely concerning on many levels.

“Perhaps the most pressing concern involves timing. With less than six months left in his term, Gov. Christie has ordered a massive restructuring of mental health and addiction services to take place in less than 60 days. With the state of healthcare in limbo at the federal level and a new state administration poised to take over in six months, consciously choosing to inject turmoil into an already chaotic situation seems ill-advised at best and extremely irresponsible at worse.

“We have no idea what the impact will be on providers on the ground who are already grappling with the challenges of the fee-for-service transition. We also have no idea how this will impact individuals and their families, many of whom suffer from both mental health issues and developmental disabilities and will now have to deal with two different departments when navigating an already difficult system.

“This hearing raised more questions than answers. But one thing we do know is that a restructuring of this magnitude should not be undertaken without those answers.”