NJAMHAA Honors State, National Leaders for Mental Health Care and Substance Use Related Initiatives

The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) recently honored state and national leaders for their initiatives related to improving access to mental health care and substance use treatment.

State Senator Linda R. Greenstein (D-14th District; pictured on the left below) received the State Legislative Leadership Award. "Throughout her career, Senator Greenstein has been a passionate, dedicated and effective advocate for improving access to and quality of services for children and adults with mental illnesses, substance use disorders and other disabilities. Most recently and notably, she co-sponsored S2935, which calls for $25 million in supplemental safety net funding for programs that are struggling in the fee-for-service system," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of NJAMHAA.

The Outstanding Leadership in Addressing the Opioid Crisis Award was presented to Sharon Joyce, Director, Office of the New Jersey Coordinator of Addiction Response and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES), Office of the Attorney General (pictured in the center below). "The fact that the Attorney General created NJ CARES to fight the opioid crisis is a great testament to the commitment of our state government overall to address this critical issue," Dr. Wentz said. "Under Sharon's leadership, the office will implement new initiatives to fight drug addiction. These include the creation of around-the-clock Opioid Response Teams in municipalities throughout New Jersey, a network to exchange opioid-related data among state agencies, and an online portal providing the public with real-time updates on overdose deaths and other addiction-related information."

NJAMHAA also honored Pete Scerbo, MSW, LCSW, NJAMHAA Board Treasurer and Executive Director of Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., with the Lifetime Leadership Award (pictured on the right below). "Pete has devoted his career to improving the health of children, adolescents and adults with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders, as well as adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He has been a pioneer and always fought for what was right in terms of high-quality patient care and for models that would enable his and other organizations to meet the expanding need," Dr. Wentz said. "Serving on the

NJAMHAA Board of Directors, Pete has been a steadfast leader over the years and has contributed to almost every NJAMHAA committee. NJAMHAA and all those in the state receiving treatment and social services have been fortunate to have Pete advocating and working for high-quality care."

In addition, the Teaming Up for Parity Award was presented in honor of Patrick J. Kennedy, Founder of The Kennedy Forum and Former U.S. Congressman, who accepted the award via video, and Aaron Kucharski, Former Chair of the New Jersey Parity Coalition and Former Advocacy Trainer at the New Jersey chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD-NJ). "It is very fitting that we have the Teaming up for Parity Award because on October 3rd, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and we are grateful for Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who shepherded the legislation into law. We give him accolades for the work that he has done during his time in Congress and through The Kennedy Forum to implement the legislation. Thanks to the passage of the parity act, many lives have been saved," Dr Wentz said.

"The Kennedy Forum created partnerships with states' coalitions to achieve its mission of having the federal parity law fully implemented. Aaron Kucharski worked with Former Congressman Kennedy, first in Rhode Island and then through NCADD-NJ, where he served as an Advocacy Trainer. Aaron also chaired the New Jersey Parity Coalition, a grassroots effort of partnering individuals and organizations, including NJAMHAA, working to end insurance inequalities for individuals seeking mental health and substance use treatment. Guided by The Kennedy Forum, the group developed a legislative bill for enforcement of the parity law, which was introduced early this year. This bill, A2031, underscores that the federal law must be complied with and adds that parity must apply to all medically necessary services to treat behavioral health conditions and autism," Dr. Wentz said.

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