New Jersey Must Ensure Critical Behavioral Health Services Are Maintained and Expanded!

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Poll after poll, and a multitude of articles (Pandemic unleashes a spike in overdose deaths, The COVID Pandemic Could Lead to 75,000 Additional Deaths from Alcohol and Drug Misuse, Suicide, COVID-19 and Suicide: A Crisis Within a Crisis) and reports highlight the serious and significant impact of the pandemic on the mental health of tens of millions of people in the U.S.; the increasing number of opioid deaths and deaths of despair; and the critical need to invest in mental health and substance use treatment and support services, expanding capacity significantly to help address this secondary crisis.

The members of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies serve over 500,000 New Jersey children and adults each year.  The services provided to those with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders have always been a lifeline, but never more so than during the current pandemic.

Faced with an unprecedented pandemic, New Jersey’s FY2021 budget must invest in New Jersey’s most vulnerable children and adults by ensuring critical behavioral health services are maintained, with provider deficit gaps covered, and an expansion of services to meet exploding need and demand.

We, the undersigned, urge Governor Murphy, the New Jersey Legislature, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Families to include the following in the FY2021 budget:

1.  FY2020 levels of funding for children’s and adult’s community-based behavioral health services.

2.  Additional funding to:

- support the purchase of technology infrastructure and services for both clients and providers so telehealth services are made available to all;

- ensure adequate staffing for children and adults by covering the cost of the minimum wage increases, which remain unaccounted for in provider rates or contracts since the increases began;

- protect children and adults by covering the cost of covid-related expenses to meet staffing and safety guidelines, including personal protective equipment and cleaning services.

3.  Investment to expand community-based mental health and substance use treatment to respond to the ever-increasing need amidst COVID-19 so every child and adult receives appropriate care.