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Assemblyman Greenwald and Others Introduce Legislative Package Investing in Behavioral Health


March 15, 2022

A Legislative Package of six bills was introduced on Thursday, March 10, 2022 by Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington), along with a number of his fellow Assembly members, that aims to more comprehensively meet the mental healthcare needs of New Jersey residents in the communities where they reside.

Behavioral health issues have increased dramatically in New Jersey communities and across the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The percentage of adults in the U.S. with anxiety or depression symptoms increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from August 2020 to February 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The numbers regarding youth mental health are even more concerning. According to the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA), the proportion of those 18 and younger going to emergency rooms (ER's) with anxiety between the months of April and December in 2020 represented a 74% increase from that same time period in 2019. Similarly, for those in the same age group and for the same time periods, the proportion of ER visits relating to depression increased 84%.

As quoted on insidernj.com, Assemblyman Greenwald said, "During the pandemic, hospital emergency rooms were taking on an influx of patients seeking medical care for anything concerning mental health, from symptoms of depression and anxiety to more complex disorders . . . ER's are not the best settings to handle mental health issues and are also the most expensive option for a patient. Many residents are struggling to navigate our complex behavioral health system and, as a result, they delay care until going to the ER is the only option . . . This legislation will help improve access to these services through partnerships with hospitals, managed care organizations, and community health centers. Through these innovative partnerships and programs, we will help residents more easily access critical behavioral health resources and improve mental healthcare throughout the State."

The six bills included in the legislative package are:

  • A3595 - Requires health benefits plan and carriers to meet certain requirements concerning network adequacy and mental health care.
  • A3596 - Requires the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) to publish an easily readable, step-by-step guide for community health centers to obtain licenses to provide integrated care.

  • A3597 - Requires DOH to establish a Community Health Center Integrated Care Loan Program.
  • A3598 - Establishes a pilot program for 24-hour urgent care for behavioral health.
  • A3599 - Requires DHS to establish a two-year Regional Community Behavioral Health Pilot Program.

  • A3600 - Establishes a pilot program to refer certain emergency department patients for development of coordinated behavioral health care treatment and support services plans.

The text of the bills is not yet published online; however, copies are available by e-mail request. Bill sponsors can be contacted here, through the legislative roster on the NJ Legislature website.

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