Monday, July 1, 2019

State Budget Continues Support to Fight Opioid Crisis; NJAMHAA Persists in Advocacy for More Funding for All Behavioral Health Services

The greatest win for members of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) and the children and adults they serve is the continuation of $100 million allocated to fight the opioid crisis. Also significant and positive are initiatives to make health care more available and affordable; the continuation of increased reimbursement for intake assessments and psychiatric evaluations in outpatient programs; the continuation of increased reimbursement for Care Management Organizations for the second consecutive year; and the restoration of $59 million that had been diverted from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund last year.

As NJAMHAA celebrates these victories, we are steadfastly continuing our fight for additional funding that is needed for all substance use treatment and mental healthcare services for children, youth and adults, most notably, $25 million to support specific fee-for-service programs that have been struggling due to in adequate rates that have led to deficits; funding for bricks and mortar that is needed for our members to provide comprehensive, integrated care; and fiscal resources to support increased minimum wages for the direct care workers who provide mental health care and substance use treatment, as well as the salary increases that would become necessary for staff who earn more than the minimum wage.

In typical NJAMHAA fashion, we are rolling up our sleeves and hitting the ground running to continue the call in FY2020 for this much-needed funding. While the budget negotiations are over, our advocacy never will be.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Strong Information Technology Is Essential for Quality Health Care

A strong information technology (IT) infrastructure is essential for maximizing the quality and efficiency of healthcare services, as well as for a viable business model. While this is true for physical health care alone, it is especially necessary for ensuring comprehensive, personalized integrated care for physical health conditions, mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

NJAMHAA’s relentless advocacy for funding for behavioral healthcare providers’ electronic health record (EHR) systems has paid off with the recent announcement of funding from the New Jersey Department of Health and Department of Human Services for substance use treatment providers to implement and upgrade EHR systems and connect to the New Jersey Health Information Network. And NJAMHAA continues to call nonstop for state dollars for mental healthcare providers to also implement or upgrade their EHRs.

Our advocacy also led to EHR-related provisions in two federal bills. The 21st Century Cures Act includes provisions for enhancing interoperability, facilitating information sharing and reinforcing the security of health IT, which the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology will be implementing. The SUPPORT [Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment] for Patients and Communities Act includes a Medicare provision for testing incentive payments for behavioral health providers for adoption and use of certified EHR technology.

Interoperability is so essential that our IT Project has made it the topic of the keynote presentation at its annual conference, Get Smart - Be In CONTROL and Combat KAOS, which will be held on May 29, 2019 at the Pines Manor, Edison, NJ. Van Ly, Senior Director of the New Jersey Innovation Institute, will kick off the conference with a compelling presentation, Interoperability, Opportunity and the Future of Healthcare Technology.

This conference is not just for IT staff, as demonstrated by not only the keynote presentation, but also many other conference highlights:

§  Plenary presentation, Blockchain Technology in Combating the Opioid Crisis and Mental Health Disorders, by Edward Bukstel, CEO of Clinical Block Chain.
§  Workshop, Cyber-Threat Management:  Evolving Compliance & Regulations - Are You Prepared?
§  Three Human Resources workshops: HR Compliance in 2019: What You Need to Know; Workplace Violence/Active Assailant Readiness; and Diversity in the Workplace
I have no doubt that you and your teams will gain a lot from this conference and I look forward to seeing you there! Visit for more details and to register.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Take a Break, Strategically Prepare for the Future and Network at NJAMHAA’s Annual Conference April 15-16, 2019

NJAMHAA’s Annual Conference, The Ivy League of Behavioral Health, Policy, and Practice in Action, has so much to offer for individuals in all types of roles in the mental healthcare, substance use treatment and other behavioral health services system. It will be held on April 15-16, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Princeton in Plainsboro, NJ.

Because changes are happening rapidly, you need to be strategically preparing for them. Take a much needed breather and at the same time, network to meet your partners and shape your future.

Here are some highlights of what is in store at this event:

Day 1
* Keynote Presentation, Effective Strategies for Dealing with the Opioid Crisis: Prevention, Treatment and Policy Implications, by A. Thomas McLellan, PhD Founder, Treatment Research Institute and Emeritus Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
* State Leadership Panel with Commissioner Carole Johnson, Department of Human Services, and Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, Commissioner, Department of Community Affairs
* Top of their League: Courage & Compassion Awards Reception:  We will be honoring the inspiring and impressive individuals listed below. Attendance is included with Day 1 conference registration.

* Frank Pallone, U.S. Congressman, Chair, House Energy and Commerce Committee, Federal Champion for Health Care Award
* Joseph F. Vitale, State Senator, Chair of the State Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, State Champion for Health Care Award     
* Louis D. Greenwald, Assembly Majority Leader, Leadership in Increasing Access to Substance Use Treatment Award 

* John Thompson, MS, CPRS, Senior Director of Prevention and Recovery Support Services, Center for Family Services, University of Pennsylvania Quaker Award: Outstanding Peer Leader
* Dorothy Scott, Housing First Behavioral Care Specialist, South Jersey Behavioral Health Resources, Brown University Bear Award: Outstanding Direct Care Provider  
* Tara Chalakani, LPC, NCC, ACS, RN, Vice President, Mental Health Services for Youth and Families, Preferred Behavioral Health Group, Yale University Bulldog Award: Outstanding Leader in Children's Services
* Sandra Marie Connolly, MD, CCHP-P, Medical Director, Northern State Prison, University Correctional Health Care, Columbia University Lion Award: Outstanding Leader in Adult Services  
* SERV Behavioral Health System, Princeton University Tiger Award: Outstanding Provider of the Year
* Neva Pryor, MS, Executive Director, Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc., Leadership in Addressing Problem Gambling Award      
* Jim Romer, MDiv, Former Director of Psychiatric Emergency Services, RWJBarnabas - Monmouth Medical Center, and President, Mental Health Emergency Services Association, Lifetime Leadership in Mental Health Emergency and Screening Services Award
Day 2
* Keynote Presentation: This is Your Time! Susan Dreyfus, BA, President and CEO, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, will discuss the Alliance’s signature report, A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America
* Plenary: What’s in Your Bag? Unpacking One Item at a Time - William Michael Barbee, Director/Producer/Author/Entrepreneur, Airmid Counseling Services, LLC, will share his battles and successes while living with severe depression.

Plus both days feature workshops on a variety of important topics!
Please click here for all program details and here to register.


Friday, March 8, 2019

NJAMHAA Applauds Continuation of $100 Million in Funding to Fight the Opioid Crisis in Governor Murphy’s Proposed Budget

The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) applauds the continuation of both this year’s $100 million in funding to fight the opioid crisis and the rate increases for psychiatric diagnostic evaluations with and without medical services in outpatient mental health programs, which will go into effect on April 1, 2019, in Gov. Murphy’s proposed FY2020 budget.

As mental illnesses also commonly occur along with intellectual and developmental disabilities, NJAMHAA commends Gov. Murphy on the proposed increased funding for the Division of Developmental Disabilities that includes $7 million in state funds and an additional $2.5 million in federal funds for crisis stabilization programs, as well as funding for a pilot Behavioral Health Home program for individuals with dual diagnoses.

NJAMHAA is also pleased that Gov. Murphy directs the Department of Human Services, Department of Banking and Insurance and Treasury Department to examine insurance plans’ compliance with the parity law, which requires benefits for mental health and substance use services to be at the same level as those for medical and surgical services, and to develop plans for more strictly enforce parity in the future.

Click here for more details on NJAMHAA’s budget priorities.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

State Initiatives Will Make Unprecedented Strides in Fighting the Opioid Crisis

Governor Murphy’s “Righting the Opioid Epidemic” initiatives will lead to unprecedented and significant strides forward in addressing the crisis and setting the path to reversing the tragic trend of drug overdose deaths. NJAMHAA applauds the multi-faceted, cross-system, collaborative approach engaging government, law enforcement, providers, and affected individuals and their families in a unified strategy.

NJAMHAA is especially pleased that Governor Murphy has heard and responded to our members and other stakeholders’ call to remove prior authorization requirements for medication assisted treatment for Medicaid beneficiaries and to increase access to this type of service by requiring that it be offered in residential settings and recruiting and training primary care physicians to administer it and connect them to other resources.

By keeping families together through the provision of housing, transportation, and other assistance and also expanding the Prescription Monitoring System, as well as Operation Helping Hand to 17 counties to get individuals who commit low-level offenses into substance use treatment, the Governor’s plan is a diversified effort that holds great promise.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!

While many conversations and publications speak mainly about exercise and weight loss as New Year’s resolutions, I suggest that we all also strive to simplify our lives and reinforce the reasons for why we do what we do. I believe this is especially important for those of us who are in healthcare fields serving individuals with mental illnesses, substance use disorders and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities.

We all seem to be going frenetically in different directions, trying to keep up with the proliferation of instantaneous and 24/7 communications in different forms – particularly as the mental health and substance use fields are undergoing many changes. Much of this information is inevitably repetitive as many organizations with common goals are bound to share the same information that affects them and the constituencies they serve.

We are exhausting ourselves and that is bound to affect our energy levels, ability to focus and potential impact. It is better to concentrate on a focused direction and remember why we are in the field and on whom we need to focus to achieve our purpose.

May you enjoy a happy, healthy, successful and rewarding New Year.