NJAMHAA Anticipates Commitment Upheld in Governor's Proposed Budget

NJAMHAA Anticipates Governor Christie's Proposed Budget Will Uphold His Commitment to Providing Substance Use Treatment

MERCERVILLE (February 27, 2017) - Governor Chris Christie will deliver his Budget Address for Fiscal Year 2018 tomorrow. The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) anticipates that the Governor will uphold his commitment to increase access to substance use treatment services for the estimated 939,000 individuals throughout New Jersey in need, as he stated in his State of the State address earlier this year, as well as continue investments into equally essential mental health services.

"Governor Christie and other leaders in the Administration have heard our message that access to community-based services is critical for New Jersey residents to have opportunities to recover from substance use and mental illnesses. These services not only cost substantially less than hospitalizations, emergency room visits, incarceration and homelessness, but they also have been proven highly effective in preventing the need for these high-cost services and keeping New Jerseyans healthy," said Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., President and CEO of NJAMHAA.

"In addition to the significant increase in funding for substance use services that the State has enacted when these treatment programs transitioned to a 100-percent fee-for-service reimbursement system, NJAMHAA appreciates the more recent announcement of a substantial rate increase for medication monitoring, which is an essential part of treatment for both substance use and mental health disorders. This is a great step forward. Hopefully, the budget will include increases to other rates that are causing difficulty in the transition to fee-for-service and safety net funding that will keep providers fiscally viable," Dr. Wentz said.

Based on Gov. Christie's State of the State address earlier this year, NJAMHAA is confident that his proposed FY 2018 budget will include a continued investment for mental health and substance use treatment services with the recurrence of $127 million (which includes State funds and dollars drawn down from the federal government for Medicaid payments to providers) in the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services' budget; $5 million to expand the Pediatric Behavioral Health Hub; a $1 million increase in funding to expand recovery dorms at colleges and universities; and $12 million to open 200 beds for 18- and 19-year-olds to be served by the Children's System of Care.
"We hope this $12 million allocation is a net increase in funding for both children's and adults' services so that service capacity for all New Jerseyans will be expanded," Dr. Wentz said.

"We look forward to seeing this and other meaningful investments for mental health and substance use services for children and adults itemized in the Governor's proposed budget and we urge our State Legislators to vote in favor of this funding, as it is essential for the quality of life for vulnerable individuals of all ages throughout the state, as well as New Jersey's fiscal health," Dr. Wentz added.

These appropriations build on numerous efforts that Gov. Christie has undertaken over the past couple of years to increase access to substance use treatment. In addition to initiatives to help ensure access to mental health and substance use services, Gov. Christie established the Facing Addiction Task Force. More recently, Gov. Christie issued an Executive Order to create the Governor's Task Force on Drug Abuse Control, which will work with the Facing Addiction Task Force, all areas of state government and other entities to develop and execute a comprehensive, coordinated strategy to combat the drug-abuse epidemic.

"These initiatives and any increased appropriations are greatly appreciated, especially in light of the opioid and heroin crisis, which is a significantly greater epidemic in New Jersey than in other states across the nation," Dr. Wentz said. "As Governor Christie himself has stated, much more needs to be done, not only to combat substance use disorders, but also co-occurring mental illnesses, which are present in at least 60 percent of individuals who have addictions."

"Neither substance use disorders nor mental illness should be treated in a vacuum. Integrated care - including services to address these disorders, as well as physical comorbidities - is essential and has been proven to be much more effective than treating any illness in a silo," Dr. Wentz added. "We look forward to working with Governor Christie and his staff to expand and ensure access to services that address these illnesses for children and adults."

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