NJAMHAA's Advocacy Results in Many FY2023 Budget Bill and other Legislative Wins

June 30, 2022

New Jersey's Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and General Assembly Budget Committee voted yesterday on a $50.6 billion FY2023 budget bill, a record high and well above Governor Murphy's proposed $48.9 billion budget. Floor votes in both houses were to take place on June 29th and the budget must be passed and signed by the Governor by midnight on June 30th to avoid a state shutdown.

NJAMHAA Advocacy Wins

Working with our Diverse Faces campaign that highlighted all the vulnerable populations our members serve, NJAMHAA saw a number of significant advocacy wins in the Governor's proposed budget, all of which remain in the State Legislature's bill, including:

  • $39 million ($27 million state funds/$12 million federal funds) to increase behavioral health wages
  • $4.6 million ($1.7 million state funds/$2.9 million federal funds) for rate parity between pediatric and adult outpatient services, including psychiatric evaluation, outpatient therapy, and partial care rates
  • A $1 million increase to be distributed to the initial Early Intervention Support Services (EISS) programs, a continuance of the Legislature's FY2022 add on
  • A $5 million increase to Office of School Linked Services (OSLS) programs, including School Based Youth Services Programs (SBYSPs), continued from the Legislature's FY2022 add on, now as part of the base. (Another recent advocacy win resulted in SBYSPs being able to carryover unspent funds from the FY2022 increase into their FY2023 budgets.)

NJAMHAA's Diverse Faces campaign led to many more successes in the Legislature's budget bill including:

  • $1.5 million for a grant program for Screening Centers to expand their mobile outreach/satellite services. The grant program, signed into law in January 2020, and this funding, were direct results of NJAMHAA requests and advocacy.
  • $16 million for mobile crisis teams, which has also been on NJAMHAA's budget priority agenda when meeting with legislators.
  • A $1 million increase to Office of School Linked Services (OSLS), over and above the $5 million increase the Governor retained from FY2022, for a total of $27.56 million.
  • $1 million for Bilingual Mental Health Professional Residencies.
  • $5.62 million to add 10 more mental health residencies and four child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship positions.
  • A $3 million increase to Charity Care Subsidy Fund Payments, bringing the total funding for Charity Care to $342 million, representing a total increase of $23 million over FY2022.

Other Notable Legislative Add-ons

  • A $7 million increase to the Child Collaborative Mental Health Care Pilot Program, bringing the total funding to $12 million.
  • A $2.5 million increase to the new Statewide Universal Newborn Home Nurse Visitation Program, for total funding of $11.04 million.
  • $65.5 million for food and hunger programs.
  • $8.7 million for Personal Care Assistance Services (raising the hourly rate from $24 to $24.52).
  • $.5 million to raise the Hotel Reimbursement Rate under the General Assistance Emergency Assistance Program by $12.
  • $7.5 million increase for the Division of Developmental Disabilities to combine with any federal matching funds to increase the residential services reimbursement rates.
  • $4.6 million increase to Health Care Professions Fee Waivers (NJAMHAA will find out more details to determine which licensees have been added to those receiving the fee holiday).
  • $.5 million increase for Regional Health Hubs, for total funding of $8.6 million.

Many NJAMHAA Members to Receive Direct Funding

Many NJAMHAA members received behavioral health funding in the Governor's proposed budget; the Legislature's budget bill has added two: the Center for Great Expectations ($1.5m) and Straight and Narrow, Paterson ($5m). The Legislature also increased the appropriation to the Volunteers of America - Re-entry Services (a $3.4m increase to $7.4m). Many other members received funds for programs other than behavioral health, both from state funds and from American Rescue Plan Funds. They can be found throughout the Legislature's "score sheet" which shows all the items added by the Legislature over and above the Governor's budget. Starting on page 22 of the budget language changes you will find a list of allocations from American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. Independent of the ARP appropriations list is language that:

  • Allocates $305 million to the Affordable Housing Production Fund, $5 million above the Governor's recommendation.
  • Expands the New Jersey Medicaid Access to Physician Services Program to include Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine and New Bridge Medical Center.
  • Adds Pre-Placement, Supported Employment Intensive Job Coaching, and Time-Limited Job Coaching vocational rehabilitation services to Long-Term Follow Along Services in receiving an increase to the hourly rate from $63 to $63.73.
  • Replaces the approval process language that gives some control to the Legislature's Joint Budget Oversight Committee over spending of ARP funds and other federal aid.

Also of note: the New Jersey Re-entry Corporation - One-Stop Offender Re-entry Services, established by former Governor James McGreevey, received a $3.4 million increase in the Legislature's bill for total funding of $10.4 million; First Lady Tammy Murphy's Nurture New Jersey program received a $1 million increase in the bill to total funding of $2 million; and the Latino Action Network Hispanic Women's Resource Center received a legislative add-on of $1.75 million for a total of $3.75 million.

Investments Maintained from the Governor's Budget

The Legislature's budget bill retained several investments in mental health and substance use treatment and supports, as well as other investments that support the vulnerable populations NJAMHAA members serve that were in the Governor's proposed budget. Among them are:

  • $108 million recurring funding for increases to Department of Children and Families Children's System of Care rates
  • $.5 million for establishing additional harm reduction centers
  • $5 million ($2.5 million state funds and $2.5 million federal funds) to continue and expand the Integrated Care for Kids program
  • $100 million in continued funding to address the opioid crisis
  • $.5 million to expand local Overdose Fatality Review Boards
  • $218 million (flat funding) for the Graduate Medical Education program, and $24 million (flat funding) for Supplemental Graduate Medical Education

Notably, there were decreases in funding in the Legislature's bill, compared to the Governor's proposal, for Care Management Organizations, Children's Mobile Response, Intensive In-Home Behavioral Assistance and Out-of-Home Treatment Services. These decreases represent adjustments following rate increases in the current year where spending did not reach the FY2022 estimated need. Additionally, Developmental Centers saw a $7.7 million decrease for salaries and wages in the Legislature's budget, though the result is still an increase of over $6 million compared to FY2022.

General Population Provisions in the Budget

The Homestead Benefit Program was replaced by the $2 billion ANCHOR property tax relief program. ANCHOR will provide a $1,500 property tax credit to homeowners making no more than $150,000 annually, with a $1,000 credit for those earning between $150,000 and $250,000. Renters with incomes of $150,000 or less will receive a tax rebate of $450.

Importantly, about $6.3 billion will be put into reserves, over $2 billion more than the Governor proposed. The spending bill also includes approximately $12.7 billion in direct aid for schools, including about $1.5 billion in special education aid.

Finally, on Monday legislators also approved a new state-level child tax credit which will give residents a credit of $500 per child for those making up to $30,000 and decreasing by $100 for every $10,000 in income above that.

While NJAMHAA will continue its advocacy for additional investments, the FY2023 budget bill is enormously positive for NJAMHAA members! It is important to remember, however, that the final budget may not include everything noted here, as Governor Murphy has line-item veto power. The budget bill will be voted on today, June 29th and sent to the Governor who is expected to sign it some time on Thursday, June 30th. NJAMHAA will provide an update if there are any relevant vetoes as soon as that information is available.

NJAMHAA Advocacy Also Succeeding with Legislation

In addition to the many significant budget successes achieved in the Governor's proposed budget and the Legislature's budget bill, NJAMHAA advocacy is seeing success elsewhere as progress on several priorities is realized in legislation that is moving through the Legislature.

One such piece of legislation reflects a request NJAMHAA has made repeatedly since the impact of the workforce shortage first became evident well over a year ago. That bill is S2872/A4399, which establishes a Behavioral Healthcare Provider Loan Redemption Program within the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and appropriates $5 million.

In every legislative meeting and communication with the Governor's office and throughout the Administration this year, NJAMHAA has advocated for a loan forgiveness program for behavioral health workers. Senate President Scutari recently introduced this bill, with Senator Ruiz as a primary co-sponsor and, reflecting its bipartisan support, Senator O'Scanlon as a co-sponsor.

Introduced in the Senate on June 16th, this bill has already moved through the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and is scheduled for a floor vote today. The Assembly bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Carter, was introduced on June 27th and passed out of the Assembly Budget Committee the same day. It is also scheduled for a floor vote today.

This is such a clear response to NJAMHAA's advocacy since early last year for surplus funds - whether State or federal - to be used for a loan forgiveness program for behavioral healthcare workers. With the fast pace at which this bill has moved, we anticipate that it will be signed by the Governor in short order.

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