Covid NJ: New Jersey to increase available free mental health services amid pandemic

Source: The Hammonton News

In order to meet the increased demand for accessible mental health assistance during the pandemic and its related shutdown order, the state’s Department of Community Affairs is allowing any mental health professional to offer free services to low-income patients and health care workers as part of their bi-annual recertification.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the program on Thursday. It permits therapists, psychologists and counselors to trade two hours of free services in exchange for one credit of continuing education training normally required when they seek renewal of their license.

“By partially freeing up time for mental health care professionals, this order will make it easier for practitioners to give back during this time of crisis,” said acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs Kaitlin A. Caruso. “We all want at-risk residents to have more access to professional mental health care services at this time of need.”

OPINION: The rise in student suicides is just the tip of the pandemic iceberg. We must address mental health

OPINION: New Jersey’s next state budget must do more for behavioral health support

Professionals can partially satisfy their required training by working with uninsured residents who meet the U.S. Housing Department’s rubric for low-income individuals and front-line health care professionals, or by working with a crisis intervention organization.

The program will run through the duration of either Gov. Phil Murphy’s state of emergency order, or the public health emergency, whichever remains in effect longer. And professionals are prohibited from using the volunteer hours to satisfy required training related to ethics, cultural competence, opioid treatment or judicial matters, according to a copy of the order.

DCA spokesperson Gema de las Heras did not provide specific examples of training categories that can be offset by volunteer work, but said training courses open to the trade-off will depend on the type of practitioner seeking to renew their license and are set by the individual boards that oversee each profession.

Likewise, the number of credits a professional may offset with volunteer work is determined by their area of practice.

A marriage counselor or family therapist may offset no more than 20 of the 40 continuing education credits required by law, certified drug and alcohol counselors are limited to countering 15 of their required 60 credits, and psychoanalysts may not waive more than five of their 40 required credits.

Within that range, other caps apply to professions including psychologists, social workers, advance practice nurses, art therapists and others.

A mental health worker looking to volunteer with an existing organization can find a list of participating programs on website.

Women’s Health Care To Get NJ Funding Boost
Why it matters that Trump kept his COVID vaccination under wraps