NJAMHAA Highlights Need for Increased Funding of the Workforce and Services

January 16, 2024

Everyone in New Jersey's Diverse Community Is Worthy of Full Investment in the Behavioral Healthcare System

According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration November 2023 report, 48.7 million Americans (17.3%) aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder in 2022 and 59.3 million adults aged 18 (23.1%) or older had a mental illness. Effective, evidence-based treatment and supports have provided millions of these individuals a path to recovery. Unfortunately, those who are struggling often are unable to access the services they need and deserve.

Every New Jerseyan must have access to timely, quality behavioral health care. In order for the State to provide it, increased and sustained funding for the behavioral healthcare workforce and essential behavioral health programs is needed. The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies' (NJAMHAA's) new campaign, Diverse Faces: All Are Worthy of Full Investment, shares recommendations on how access to care can be improved and, importantly, it highlights many New Jerseyans' success stories that demonstrate how life-changing and life-saving behavioral health care is to those who receive it.

In addition to achieving recovery from mental illnesses and substance use disorders, recipients of behavioral healthcare services reach many other goals, such as reuniting with their families, pursuing higher education, returning to careers and entering new professions, and contributing to their communities. "These are powerful, lasting and meaningful impacts of the support that the behavioral healthcare workforce fosters," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of NJAMHAA.

"Our campaign shares several of the countless examples of how behavioral health and support services - and the workforce who provide them - have enabled New Jersey residents to lead the most fulfilling and successful lives possible. It illustrates the need for the FY2025 State Budget to include substantial increases to reimbursement rates and contracts to ensure that everyone receives the services they need and deserve, and, thereby, gain opportunities to improve their quality of life and achieve all their goals," Dr. Wentz stated.

Tamika's is one of the inspiring stories shared in the campaign. "The staff at Youth Consultation Service (YCS) saw a lot of potential in me so when it came down to therapy and behavior, they gave me guidance about how to live with my disorder. The whole YCS agency kept me on track," she said. "My dream is to open a homeless shelter for young women with mental illness who grew up in the system and don't know which way to go."

And there is Shauna's story. Shauna is Vice President of Public Affairs and Member Services at NJAMHAA. Shauna lost her brother to suicide many years ago, leading her to work for NJAMHAA. She later experienced her own crisis and received treatment at Carrier Clinic, where she "underwent such a major transformation and saw others transform right before my eyes."

Alice's metamorphosis happened with the help of NewBridge Services. After a three-month hospitalization in 2019, Alice began attending NewBridge Services' day treatment program. In addition to recovering from depression, which she has experienced since childhood, Alice developed skills and confidence and has been thriving in a part-time job.

Providers not only serve long-time New Jersey residents, but also individuals who recently came to the state - and, in some cases, to the country - for the first time. One such individual is 8-year-old Daryna from Ukraine, who came to New Jersey to live with her grandmother after losing her mother to suicide. Daryna's teachers referred her to Bergen's Promise, through which she was connected with an intensive in-home counselor and resources to learn English and gymnastics, as well as develop social skills and confidence.

"There are many more equally life-changing stories that begin with the support of behavioral healthcare providers, and countless more successes can be achieved as long as the behavioral healthcare workforce is strengthened and access to these essential services is assured in the FY2025 and future state budgets," Dr. Wentz emphasized.

Click here to view NJAMHAA's campaign, Diverse Faces: All Are Worthy of Full Investment, to read more on the successes of Tamika, Shauna, Alice, Daryna and several other diverse individuals, and here to watch a video that features these and other inspiring stories.

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