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!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Helpful Advice for Small Organizations Managing Huge Demands and Challenges

In small organizations, we get so busy – as evidenced by the several weeks since my last blog. I agree with Mary Gay Abbott-Young, a NJAMHAA Board member and CEO of the Rescue Mission of Trenton, that in smaller organizations, leaders and other staff wear so many hats, which makes it is difficult to get to many things. As a result, the expectations seem unrealistic. This leads to the question: What do small service provider organizations need to do to survive?

Most days, I would describe my role at NJAMHAA as being an octopus that also has to stand on its head to manage the multiple – and growing – demands. While this makes my career exciting and never boring, it becomes very challenging. In terms of advocating strongly and constantly on many issues; meeting regulatory standards; staying on top of what is happening in the behavioral health field, related industries and the state and federal governments that affects our members’ abilities to provide services; and keeping up with daily operations and serving members/clients, both the NJAMHAA staff and our members face a gargantuan task every day.

“Small” in the behavioral health field does not necessarily mean being as small as NJAMHAA’s staff. Small provider agencies in this environment could have budgets of $10 to $15 million. On our staff, we have fewer than five individuals delivering member services, advocating, and developing and presenting conferences and other training events to NJAMHAA’s 160 organizational members and their 61,000 employees. That’s a lot of demand on a few people! And the employees at our member provider agencies contend with similar challenges.

In this environment, as demands are increasing while resources are declining, here are some ideas from Mary Gay and Jim Lape, a Past NJAMHAA Board President who recently retired from his position as Trinitas Regional Medical Center’s Vice President of Behavioral Health and Senior Services:

Mary Gay poses the following questions for providers in small agencies to consider: Does your agency need to become larger to survive or is the key to partner with other provider organizations? Does “bigger” necessarily mean better services? How can we act as a community of providers?

According to Jim, agencies need to be bigger, but they do not necessarily need to merge with other organizations. However, there is pressure to consolidate in all sectors to achieve economies of scale. What is essential is their participation in larger networks.

Jim emphasized that smaller agencies must be as strong as they possibly can be in order to be attractive to networks and larger entities. To do this, they need to manage costs by being as lean as possible, especially on the administrative side, and explore opportunities to outsource some functions, such as information technology, human resources and billing. They also need to offer special valued services to maximize their revenues – perhaps by facilitating groups, especially around medication management, and specific types of groups that would meet the needs of their communities, such as trauma-focused and dialectical behavioral therapies.

Jim added that mental health providers need to focus on the broad range of mental health disorders, not just serious mental illnesses. In addition, since money will flow from the federal and state governments to health plans when Medicaid is managed – which will probably begin within the next year or two – it is also important for agencies to have relationships with health plans and provide solutions for populations that are being insured.

The many changes taking place can seem overwhelming, especially when they appear to be at odds with providers’ mission to serve everyone in need – a population that continues to grow. I hope this advice from long-time, expert providers of both mental health and substance use services brings encouragement to all of our members.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

NJAMHAA Applauds Governor Christie’s Commitment to Providing Substance Use Treatment, Eliminating Stigma

In seventh State of the State address, Governor Chris Christie highlighted his successful initiatives and ongoing commitment to increase access to substance use treatment services for the estimated 985,000 New Jersey residents in need.

Governor Christie has been raising awareness that addiction is a disease and that individuals with addictions should not be stigmatized. Not only did he reinforce these facts during his powerful State of the State address, but he also announced new exciting and much-needed initiatives. His diverse strategies are inspiring and exactly what is needed to address these complicated issues that are leading to tragedy in thousands of lives throughout our state and nation.

Gov. Christie announced the establishment of the Governor’s Task Force for Drug Abuse Control; a continued investment for mental health and substance use treatment services with the addition of $127 million in the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ FY 2018 State Budget, as well as $12 million to open 200 beds for 18- and 19-year-olds to be served by the Children’s System of Care; “implementing a robust curriculum tailored to every age group, beginning in kindergarten”; investment of $5 million to expand the Pediatric Behavioral Health Hub; increase of funding by $1 million to expand recovery dorms at colleges and universities; establishment of sober living homes throughout the state to support ongoing recovery after graduation; development of legislation that will prohibit insurance companies from denying or requiring pre-authorization for the first six months of inpatient or outpatient substance use treatment; and the creation of a new hotline and website (1-844-REACH-NJ;, which are now in operation to further support individuals’ efforts to identify treatment providers and begin treatment.

The Governor also directed Elizabeth Connolly, Acting Commissioner, Department of Human Services, to call upon Seema Verma, the new Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to eliminate the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion, which prevents states from drawing down federal funds for any person served in a facility with more than 16 beds.

The numerous efforts that Gov. Christie has undertaken over the past couple of years with the goal of increasing access to substance use treatment include expansion of the Drug Court, which requires individuals who commit nonviolent drug crimes to begin treatment, in order to avoid further overcrowding the jails; expansion of the Recovery Coach programs, through which individuals in recovery of substance use disorders work with individuals who are revived from heroin overdoses that would otherwise be fatal and encourage them to enter treatment; the dedication of the majority of $20 million in State funds and $100 million from the federal Medicaid drawdown to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for substance use treatment; and the establishment of the Facing Addiction Task Force, chaired by Pastor Joe Carter of The New Hope Baptist Church in Newark and former Governor Jim McGreevey to address addiction from many angles: prevention, treatment, helping individuals reintegrate into the community after they complete treatment or are released from jail or prison, and supporting individuals in recovery with housing, health care and employment.

These initiatives are greatly appreciated. However, as Governor Christie himself stated, much more needs to be done as addictions, as well as co-occurring mental health disorders, are highly prevalent throughout New Jersey. Substance use disorders cannot be treated in a vacuum. Integrated care is essential and it has been proven to be much more effective than treating either illness in a silo.
We greatly appreciate Governor Christie’s focus on the opioid and heroin crisis. In order to most effectively combat this crisis, mental illnesses must also be treated. We look forward to working with Governor Christie and his staff to expand and ensure access to services that address both of these chronic illnesses.