Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Must Build Bridge to a Better Future for New Jerseyans
An op-ed written by NJAMHAA President and CEO Debra L. Wentz, PhD, has been published by insidernj.com and ROI-NJ. The op-ed states that the numbers of individuals contending with mental illness, substance use and overdoses have been increasing. These rates have increased due to circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as social isolation and economic hardship, and both racial and social injustices. Behavioral healthcare providers have been able to support these individuals through these difficulties so that individuals can achieve recovery and other personal goals, despite the continued risks that the frontline workers face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Now, more than ever, New Jersey must invest in the long-neglected community-based behavioral health workforce. With them having had no cost-of-living adjustment in over a decade, the state has also failed to provide any funding for the several annual increases in the minimum wage. Recruitment and retention of qualified staff has always been very difficult, given the fact that starting wages in the largely nonprofit community behavioral health system are, on average, $10,000 less than state, private or educational systems, and the gap only grows from there. With the impact of the pandemic on the workforce - many leaving the field for various reasons and recruitment even more difficult for these stressful, demanding jobs - and an exponentially growing need, it is critical for New Jersey to strengthen and expand this workforce," said Dr. Wentz.