With the new administration in place, there are many unknowns and we look forward to hearing more from Governor Phil Murphy about his plans concerning the state’s community-based services for children and adults with mental illnesses, substance use disorders, intellectual/developmental disabilities and co-occurring health conditions.
Undoubtedly, there will be opportunities. For example, during the inauguration, Gov. Murphy acknowledge the importance of services to address the opioid crisis, other substance use disorders and mental illnesses. I feel confident that Gov. Murphy will support services to address all of the health conditions that are prevalent in the populations our members serve.
Of course, many funding needs must be met and regulatory issues need to be resolved to ensure access to the life-saving services our members provide. While the service delivery landscape is being restructured, we will continue to advocate for increased reimbursement rates; support for workforce development; inclusion of social determinants of health, such as housing, supported education and supported employment, in healthcare models; and full enforcement of parity.
Specifically, the behavioral health system needs higher capacity in partial care, outpatient and residential programs. Rate increases are needed to meet this need. Rates and policies for Community Support Services need to be improved so that these programs can continue to be available to individuals in need. The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services has been examining this more closely. Additional funding is also needed to continue and expand supported employment and other services that enable individuals in recovery from mental illnesses and substance use disorders to rebuild their lives.
There needs to be a huge infusion of new funding because the suicide rate in New Jersey is continuing to increase and the shortage of psychiatrists, APNs and clinicians makes it difficult to serve everyone in need. One in four individuals has a mental illness and many also have substance use disorders. This underscores the critical importance of ensuring prompt access to high-quality services.
There needs to be assurance that current programs continue with adequate reimbursement rates that have inflationary factors incorporated to keep pace with the cost of living. In addition, funding for expansion of programs is necessary so that everyone in need of services has access to them.
Equally important are continued and increased efforts to eliminate stigma about both substance use disorders and mental illnesses. Stigma stops people from coming forward and seeking help that can save their lives and greatly improve their quality of life.