Gov. Christie Highlights Continued Support for Most Vulnerable in Budget Address

Governor Chris Christie recently presented highlights of his proposed $35.5 billion State Budget for FY 2018. While the state pension and related proposal to transfer state lottery revenue to the fund, school funding, infrastructure and the Governor's record over the past seven years were the focus of much of his address, the Governor did also once again highlight battling the opioid epidemic and protecting vulnerable populations.

Several initiatives touched upon had been announced in the Governor's State of the State address in January and are already underway, including legislation mandating substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, a certificate of need issued for nearly 900 acute psychiatric beds to serve individuals with co-occurring disorders, and the transfer of 18- and 19-year-olds being treated for SUD to the Children's System of Care. The Governor's Budget in Brief states, "This transition will ensure full utilization of treatment beds in both adult and children's facilities, maximizing treatment opportunities for both populations."

Noting that New Jersey is a leader "in fighting the terrible disease of addiction," Governor Christie cited other increases for mental health and addiction services, including a $5 million increase for expansion of the primary care pilot program whereby physicians screen, manage and make referrals to mental health and SUD treatment for children and youth and a $1 million increase for the expansion of the Recovery Dorms program on college campuses. Drug Courts in all 21 counties are fully funded at nearly $64 million and $2.8 million is budgeted for the Recovery Coach Program, which appears to be a $987,000 increase over FY 2017. The amount specified in the FY 2018 budget for increased behavioral health Medicaid rates is $136 million, a $9 million increase over FY 2017.

Other increases of note include:
* $100 million increase in federal matching funds for in-home services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities
* $2 million increase for the Mid-State Correctional facility, which will re-open in April and serve incarcerated individuals with SUDs
* An overall increase of $280 million for NJ FamilyCare. More budget detail is needed and will be forthcoming.
* $5 million increase for Olmstead Support Services
* $20 million for lead remediation for low- and moderate-income households "to effectuate the update in lead regulations to make New Jersey's standards for identifying elevated blood-lead levels in children consistent with those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," as described in the Budget in Brief.

One item that is once again seeing a significant decrease is Charity Care. State funding is decreased by an additional $25 million; with federal funds accounted for, the total reduction amounts to $50 million. A portion of these savings, $30 million, will be invested in Graduate Medical Education. Once again, there is flat funding for Delivery Service Reform Incentive Programs (DSRIP) at $166.6 million.

Governor Christie committed to making a $2.5 billion payment to the pension fund and noted that legislation was passed recently, requiring the State to make quarterly payments. He also spoke about infrastructure investment and proposed a $400 million supplemental appropriation to jump start work on roads, bridges and public transit. In addition, he announced a proposal to have Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, a nonprofit insuring 55 percent of the health insurance market, use $300 million of its surplus, estimated at $2.8 billion, to provide SUD treatment, noting that this is not to fill a budget gap, but to supplement budgeted services.

NJAMHAA will be exploring other items in the budget aand sharing more details as they become available.

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