NJAMHAA Applauds Law Mandating Insurance Coverage for Substance Use Treatment

MERCERVILLE (February 15, 2017) - Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D, President and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA), applauds the New Jersey State Legislature for passing Senate Bill 3 and Governor Chris Christie for signing it into law. The provisions of this bill are essential for helping to both prevent and treat addiction to opioids, which has reached severe epidemic proportions in New Jersey.

This important legislation mandates up to six months of health insurance coverage for inpatient and outpatient substance use treatment "when determined medically necessary by the covered person's physician, psychologist or psychiatrist without the imposition of any prior authorization or other prospective utilization management requirements." The law also places certain restrictions on prescribing opioids and requires certain notifications to and education of patients or their parents when opioids are being prescribed.

"The guaranteed coverage for treatment is a major step toward achieving full parity of insurance coverage for substance use treatment, a goal that is equally critical for individuals with mental health disorders," Dr. Wentz said. In fact, 60 percent of individuals with substance use disorders also have mental illnesses. Discrimination in insurance coverage for these services and other barriers to accessing services must be eliminated to maximize individuals' opportunities to live healthy and productive lives.

The new law, which mandates that providers consider information from the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to inform their prescribing decisions and requires certain healthcare professionals to receive training on prescribing opioid medications, also makes a significant contribution to the effort to eliminate stigma, which is the second most common reason, following lack of health insurance, why individuals do not seek or receive treatment when they need it.

Dr. Wentz stated, "This bill demonstrates the Administration's recognition that substance use disorders are medical illnesses, which, along with mental health disorders, must be treated the same - both clinically, and in attitude - as physical health conditions. Governor Christie has been a staunch advocate for substance use treatment and his consistently anti-stigma approach is a benefit to everyone with a substance use disorder."

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The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) is a statewide trade association representing 160 organizations that serve New Jersey residents with mental illness and/or substance use disorders, and their families. Our members - nearly 98 percent of behavioral healthcare providers in New Jersey - may be found in every county and almost every community statewide. They serve more than 500,000 children and adults each year and contribute to the economy through 61,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The NJAMHAA mission is to promote the value of its members as the highest quality behavioral healthcare providers for the residents of New Jersey through advocacy and professional development.


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