NJAMHAA Highlights Necessary Investments to Build and Sustain a Stable, Qualified Workforce in Testimony to DHS

November 30, 2023

On November 29, 2023, the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) held a public budget listening session to inform the DHS budget for 2024-2025.

Among those who provided verbal testimony during the listening session was NJAMHAA President and CEO, Debra L. Wentz, PhD, highlighting that significant additional investments are required to enable the community-based organizations serving New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations to build and sustain a stable, qualified workforce.

Dr. Wentz highlighted the profound, powerful, and positive effects behavioral health services have on individuals’ lives, illustrated through NJAMHAA’s Diverse Faces campaigns that were conducted during the past two years. She shared that NJAMHAA will introduce a new campaign, Diverse Faces: All Are Worthy of Full Investment, which will continue to highlight the life-saving work of behavioral health workers and the dire need for more investment to ensure everyone has access to the services they deserve.

Dr. Wentz stated, “To ensure such universal access, rates and contracts for mental health and substance use treatment and supports must be increased to levels that allow for competitive wages to be paid if a qualified workforce is to be recruited and retained.”

Among the recommendations for the FY2025 budget that Dr. Wentz shared during the listening session are:

  • Invest $60 million (state and federal funds) in rates and contracts to allow for more competitive wages.
  • Invest $5 million for recruitment and retention bonuses.
  • Invest $5 million for incentives for community-based organizations to become field placement sites and provide clinical supervision of interns.
  • Provide $20 million in capital funds for providers to further develop integrated care at their facilities and do necessary repairs and improvements.     

Dr. Wentz ended her testimony saying, “Whenever you look into the face of one of New Jersey’s diverse children, youth or adults, you will understand why each and every one is worthy of full investment in a behavioral healthcare workforce that is there for them when they need them.”

Additionally, during the listening session, Helen Kioukis, Senior Program Manager, Policy and Advocacy for NJAMHAA-member Camden Coalition testified for increases in funding to the four regional health hubs; and Matt Binder, Advocacy Manager at Easterseals New Jersey, supported NJAMHAA’s call for $60 million in rate increases and contracts, as well as a 6.5% increase across the board to the intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) community and increases to pay for transportation. In his testimony, Matt cited a 25% vacancy rate for IDD providers.

Click here to access a copy of Dr. Wentz’s full written testimony for more information. 

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