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.

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