Friday, July 28, 2017

Moving Parts

NJAMHAA is always on the move, advocating on behalf of our member providers and the individuals who depend on their services as many systemic changes are taking place and still more are being proposed.

In early July, the second cohort of mental health providers transitioned to fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement; some providers of Community Support Services (CSS) also started FFS reimbursement for these programs; Governor Christie proposed a reorganization of mental health and substance use services by moving them the Department of Human Services (DHS)/Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) to the Department of Health (DOH); we have a gubernatorial election coming up soon. On the federal level, there are daily changes and ongoing concerns about the federal healthcare law. As recently as early the morning of July 28th, the Senate rejected the GOP’s “skinny” version of their Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill, and shortly before the vote had introduced a new bill, the Health Care Freedom Act.

NJAMHAA is also on the move – literally. On July 31st, we will be in our new office, only two buildings away from our previous location. Regardless of the distance, it is, of course, a huge, time-consuming project. And as we undergo this change, we continue to keep our ear to the ground, listening to your concerns, which we share, and remaining as active as ever in our advocacy.

Regarding FFS, we are continuing to advocate for safety-net funding, which is the focus of the Community Mental Health Safety Net Act (S3121/A4827). We are also staying on top of the challenges CSS providers are encountering in the implementation of this program.

With a new administration starting in January 2018, which will be here before we know it, we took proactive measures and have met with both gubernatorial candidates.

We are equally proactive in voicing concerns about Gov. Christie’s proposal to move mental health and substance use services from DMHAS to DOH. In my testimony before the Assembly Human Services Committee and the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, I stated that the timing (with the FFS transition still under way) and rapidity of implementing this major change (the plan is to complete it by the end of next month) are problematic. I also pointed out that DMHAS and the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (Medicaid) should not be separated because Medicaid pays for most mental health and substance use services.

This plan can be forestalled only if the Senate and Assembly pass a concurrent resolution opposing the reorganization, which Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle has drafted for a vote on July 31, 2017. Whichever way the vote goes, NJAMHAA will meet with DOH Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, DHS Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly and the DHS Division leaders, as we have been doing on a regular basis, to advocate for removing regulatory barriers, and ensuring integrated care and services, and adequate resources to ensure access for everyone in need.

Of course, NJAMHAA is also actively advocating on the federal level, striving to ensure continuation of the Medicaid expansion and preservation of other positive aspects of the ACA. While we can celebrate the defeat of the “skinny” bill – and we should celebrate – it is not a time to let down our guard as unfortunately, we can anticipate future attempts to repeal and weaken the provisions of the ACA, as well as funding for Medicaid and Medicare.

NJAMHAA has impact! And we give credit to many of our members for providing their insights and experiences to maximize the effectiveness of our advocacy.

We look forward to continuing our critical and powerful partnership! Please continue – or begin – to participate in Membership and Practice Group meetings to contribute to the content and influence of our advocacy. For details, contact Shauna Moses, Vice President of Public Affairs and Member Services, at 609-838-5488, ext. 204, or (You can also contact Shauna if you are not yet a NJAMHAA member.)

Remember! These meetings will be held at our new office at 3635 Quakerbridge Road, Suite 35, Mercerville, NJ.

Our phone (609-838-5488) and fax (609-838-5489) numbers and e-mail addresses will not change.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Safety Net Funding for Mental Health Services Remains Imperative

Following is an excerpt of an opinion-editorial piece that was recently published by the Star-Ledger on

The state Legislature will soon release its budget for fiscal year 2018.  It is imperative that it include safety net funding for community-based providers as their mental health services are transitioned to a fee-for-service reimbursement system.

This funding is critical to ensuring that tens of thousands of New Jerseyans do not lose access to services that will leave them at risk of health complications requiring much more costly treatment in emergency departments and hospital inpatient units.

Keeping providers fiscally viable so they can maintain patient access to care, as well as continuity and quality of care, will not only save thousands of lives, but will also save the state millions of dollars.

Lives are at stake. The state needs to make the wise investment of safety net funding now to prevent the exorbitant financial costs and the unconscionable costs to lives that will occur without it. We urge all New Jerseyans to support this critical funding.

Click here to read this entire article.

Monday, June 12, 2017

NJAMHAA’s Advocacy Builds Potential for New Legislation and Funding Increases

This year, NJAMHAA has surpassed its own record in being nonstop active and effective in advocacy. Most recently and notably, our communication with state legislators and policymakers has led to the introduction of a fee-for-service (FFS) oversight bill and legislation for safety-net funding. In addition, we provided substantial input on legislation to expand screening centers and Early Intervention Support Services, which was recently passed by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. We also submitted budget resolutions for FFS safety net funding, a 5% Cost of Living Adjustment on remaining contracts, and increased rates for Care Management Organizations for the FY 2018 State Budget, all of which are circulating in both the Assembly and Senate.

Our partnership with members is a key factor in the impact we are having. We rely on our members’ experiences and insights on the impact of regulations, legislation and reimbursement changes, as well as clients’ success stories, to maximize our effectiveness.

Success stories are particularly effective in local advocacy and I urge all of our members to share these compelling examples of their services’ value with their local legislators. Illustrations of how funding restrictions and regulatory changes can harm individuals and families are equally poignant.

Everyone can have an impact.

All of our member providers do have impact through the vital services they provide every day. An inspiring example of all NJAMHAA providers’ personal dedication is Lou Schwarcz, former President and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Morris County. Lou has made the admirable decision to step down from his position and achieve a merger with the Mental Health Association of Essex County to ensure that clients do not lose services and that most of the MHAMC staff remains employed. I look forward to honoring Lou with the Unparalleled Leadership in Serving New Jersey’s Mental Health Community Award during our upcoming Membership Meeting.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017



NJAMHAA Has Impact and Depends on Members for Insights

“NJAMHAA’s role and impact in the field of mental health has been tremendous and with the landscape becoming more complex, it can only be more important moving into the future,” said Anthony DiFabio, PsyD, Chief Executive Officer of Robins’ Nest and long-time NJAMHAA member.

Changes are always happening – that’s the increasingly complex landscape Dr. DiFabio refers to and it presents many challenges for providers of not only mental health care, but also substance use and developmental disabilities services.

Most notably and most concerning, nowadays, are the transition to fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement for providers of mental health care and substance use treatment for children and adults. On the federal level, the possible repeal and inadequate replacement of the Affordable Care Act and proposed significant funding cuts to Medicaid.

To address these major issues and many others that affect our members’ abilities to provide services to everyone in need, NJAMHAA regularly meets and corresponds with State Legislators and key policymakers (e.g., Departments of Human Services and Children & Families) and our Congressional delegates. We demonstrate the value of our members’ life-saving and life-enhancing services and reinforce the critical need to ensure access to these services. We communicate this message even farther through traditional and social media. We undertake these initiatives as part of our constant pursuit of our mission:

To promote the value of its members as the highest quality behavioral healthcare providers for the residents of New Jersey through advocacy and professional development.

For professional development, we offer numerous training opportunities throughout the year.

Our advocacy has had a significant impact and we are the recognized leader in advocacy and achievement for New Jersey’s community mental health, substance use and developmental disabilities system. Highlights of our advocacy achievements include:

       Significant input into the FFS oversight legislation, its passage and signing into law
       Increase of several FFS reimbursement rates for mental health, substance use and Community Support Services (CSS), most notably the doubling of medication monitoring rates
       Option for transition dates for mental healthcare and CSS providers
       Substantial input that was used in the development of proposed legislation for safety net funding for mental health agencies transitioning to FFS on July 1, 2017, and expansion of screening centers and Early Intervention Support Services
       Preservation of funding for mental health and substance use services, including many children's behavioral health services, in the FY 2017 State Budget: All of the new funding proposed by the Governor was maintained.
       For the FY 2018 State Budget, Gov. Christie cited funding increases for mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities services, and we continue to advocate to help ensure State Legislators vote in favor of this funding.

On the federal level, our advocacy contributed to the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes a $1 billion, two-year appropriation (almost $12 million to New Jersey for two years) to fight the opioid crisis.

The effectiveness of our advocacy is a result, in large part, to our members’ active involvement. They share their perceptions of and experiences with changes in funding, regulations and laws, as well as their clients’ success stories. We incorporate this invaluable information int­­o our advocacy, our communication with traditional media representatives and on social media.

Please click here to learn more about how NJAMHAA membership can reinforce your organization and career, and how your involvement can help strengthen New Jersey’s mental health, substance use and developmental disabilities system.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Protect your Data, Clients and Business: Attend Cybersecurity Conference April 27, 2017

No one is immune to cyberattacks, especially in health care, the most targeted industry sector for cybercriminals.

More than 90 million cyberattacks occurred in 2016 and this number could double this year.

This means steps must be taken now to protect your data, clients and business!

NJAMHAA’s Information Technology (IT) Project has secured expert presenters on cybersecurity and other related, equally critical topics for its annual conference, Be Connected, Stay Protected: Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, which will be held on April 27, 2017 at the National Conference Center, Holiday Inn in East Windsor, NJ.

At least one representative from every healthcare provider organization should attend this conference to gain invaluable information and resources to protect their data, clients and business. Ideally, at least two individuals from each agency should participate: an IT staff person and a CEO/Executive Director, as these learning opportunities are critical for both IT and non-IT staff.
Program highlights include:

       Keynote presentation, Mobile Apps for Mental Health: Privacy and Security Issues: Learn from leaders from the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine about how digital mental health tools have the potential to transform the way behavioral health treatment is provided.

       You’ve Been Hacked – Now What?:  The CEO’s of GreyCastle Security and Foothold Technology will carve out the pathway for you to follow, in the event you have been exposed to such a crime.

       Business Continuity Planning and Implementation: More Important Now than Ever!: Hear about actual case studies and learn what you should be doing to keep yourself in business during a catastrophic time.

       Building a Trust Based Internet of Things [IoT] for Business Critical Applications: Gain an overview of the eight steps to connect and protect IoT devices in today’s networks.

       Compliance through Penetration Testing:. Do you do this? You should be! The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires annual risk assessments of providers’ network infrastructures. Learn how to get started with a cybersecurity compliance program.

         2017 Cybersecurity Landscape and HIPAA Compliance:  Learn about the current cyber threats that you need to protect your organization from, as well as the IT solutions and best practices to manage risk AND remain compliant without breaking the bank.

There’s much more! Visit to read all program details and register online

Monday, April 3, 2017

National Healthcare Law: A Sigh of Relief, yet Need for Ongoing and Strong Advocacy

While we have a lot to celebrate and there was a deep sigh of relief for the time being when the American Health Care Act vote was canceled, we would be ill advised to assume that everything is fine and business will continue as usual. We know there are battles on different fronts on the near horizon.

There is much political motivation to weaken the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that will negatively impact providers of mental healthcare and substance use treatment services and will be irreparably harmful to those they serve. We must continue to advocate strongly for parity to be reinforced and for the Essential Health Benefits to be maintained.

We must not get complacent or feel the problem has been kicked down the road and we can focus only on immediate matters. While the vote on the national healthcare law has been held off, there is a lot of repositioning going on behind the scenes. We need to do everything possible to direct the legislative and regulatory changes to be positive for providers and the individuals they serve.

This is a lot like a boxing match: We are back in our corners for now. The fight has not been won yet.

We must persevere with strong, consistent advocacy.

Let’s get right back in the ring! Write and call your Congressional representatives to solidify their support for a healthcare law that will ensure coverage and access to services for everyone in need, for all health conditions. Click here to access NJAMHAA’s Legislative Handbook, which provides all the contact information you need.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Advocacy and Knowledge Building Are Always Critical for Providers and other Stakeholders
Join NJAMHAA at its Annual Conference March 29-30, 2017 for Information, Insights & Inspiration

Now is the time to exercise your lungs and advocate against the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act as loudly as you can. If the American Health Care Act is passed, hundreds of thousands of individuals will lose coverage, which for many, was recently gained as a result of the Medicaid expansion.

It is also a good time to take a breath and a refreshing break – while continuing to reinforce your effectiveness as a behavioral health provider and advocate. It is natural to feel overextended and stressed with so many important issues to focus on, so NJAMHAA has a solution: Attend our Annual Conference, Collaboration and Innovation: A Formula for Success, on March 29 and 30, 2017 to take a rejuvenating, yet still productive break from your highly demanding daily responsibilities.

The conference is not just something else to do. It is designed to make everything you do even better. You and the individuals you serve will benefit tremendously because you will not only get the latest updates from Washington in real time, but also will gain a wealth of information and insights that are timely and valuable for your ongoing work with individuals who depend on your services to achieve a high quality of life.

You will not want to miss:

* Working with a New Administration: In his keynote presentation on Day 1, Ron Manderscheid, PhD, Executive Director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, will provide his insights on the likely impact of changes to national policy, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid. He will also share his perspective on the direction of healthcare policy for the near and long term, as well as guidelines for preparing for the coming changes.

* Five Pillars - The Pathway to Improving the Delivery of Mental Health Services in Education: An Interview with Amy Kennedy: In this plenary session, Amy Kennedy, MS, Education Director for the Kennedy Forum, will share findings from her research in early identification of and intervention for mental health concerns in children, the use of brain fitness and mindfulness within school systems in order to foster and improve mental wellness, and developing prevention programs that utilize and promote students’ social and emotional learning.

* Innovation in Behavioral Health Management, Reimbursement and Delivery: For the Day 2 keynote presentation, Brian Wheelan, MBA, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President at Beacon Health Options, will share the successes and challenges that have come from collaborations with provider organizations in both risk and non-risk based arrangements.

* The Changing Role of Hospitals: Leaders from Carrier Clinic, Hackensack, UMC Mountainside and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers will discuss their successes from programs and changes they have implemented, as well as their current or planned efforts to better serve those with mental health and/or substance use disorders. They will also focus on the need for collaboration between hospitals and community-based providers.

* Plus: Workshops to meet every training need: Topics are organized by tracks – General Clinical/Adult Mental Health; Substance Use Disorders and Treatment; Children and Youth; and Organizational.

Get Even More Inspired at the Courage & Compassion Awards Reception

The best way to attract and retain staff is to make them feel valued. We all know of the amazing work that frontline providers and organizations’ leaders do every day and we are delighted to present Courage & Compassion Awards to several of them at our annual awards and networking reception.

Please join us to honor providers, as well as state legislators and media representatives who support the mental health, substance use and developmental disabilities systems.

Your participation in the reception is included in your Day 1 conference registration.

Click here to register now!