Advocacy E-News January 14, 2016

January 14, 2016



Governor Chris Christie announced sweeping action in his State of the State address on Tuesday, pledging $100 million in State and Federal funds toward mental health and substance abuse and proposing to reopen a state prison as a state-run rehabilitation facility for inmates.

Christie said he will commit more than $100 million toward mental health and substance abuse, which will primarily be used to increase reimbursement rates to providers for treating the poor or Medicaid recipients. This is intended to help improve critical services and provide more treatment capacity.

The Governor announce his intention to increase training programs for first responders on how to recognize and deal with someone going through a mental health crisis so that they may receive “better care in a treatment facility, not in a prison”. The Governor noted that 2,500 first responders in nine counties have already been trained (CIT) and that we will now train more.

Christie noted that within the top 1 percent of the most-expensive Medicaid patients, more than 86 percent have a mental illness, substance abuse issue, or both. By helping people get access to coordinated care for their physical conditions, mental health and addiction issues, New Jersey can deliver more effective treatment and lower the long-term cost to the state. He proposed increase funding for three regional Accountable Care Organizations which are working to identify high-cost patients and coordinate their treatment for physical and behavioral health in order to reduce unnecessary stays in hospital and avoid crowding up the ER.

The Governor also proposed closing Mid-State Prison at Fort Dix and reopening it as a treatment center for prisoners with substance abuse issues. Christie did not allude to who would manage the facility, but the Wall Street Journal reported a private company is expected to be brought in.

Christie also announced the expansion of an intervention plan spearheaded last year by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office. The Recovery Coach Program will place treatment specialists, who often in recovery themselves, at hospitals to encourage and help overdose victims get treatment for substance abuse problems while they are still in the hospital. The program will be expanded to six counties, beginning this month, Christie said. The counties were not specified.

He stated that “these are some of the important steps that we need to continue caring for some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable people. This is a top priority for me this year, as well as for the remainder of my administration. Let’s work together to save lives.”

The Governor cautioned that funding for the Transportation Trust Fund and public workers’ pensions will compete with these proposals as well as other crucial items.

Not included in the State of the State speech but circulated by the Governor’s office prior to the address in a separate email under the subject line “Making Access to Mental Health Treatment a Priority”, several additional mental health proposals were put forward.

Under the Governor’s proposed reforms, a new standard for involuntary outpatient commitment will be created to include individuals who are not currently dangerous but whose mental illness, if untreated, could deteriorate to the point of harm. Under the proposal, individuals would now be evaluated based on a history of lack of compliance with treatment; acts of serious violent behavior to self or others; threats or attempts at harm within the past forty-eight months; or unwillingness to voluntarily comply with treatment because of a mental illness. These new standards provide predictable guidance for clinicians to best determine whether involuntary outpatient treatment is most appropriate to maximize use of outpatient commitment.

The full text of the Governor’s address