Restore Stability To Community-Based Behavioral Health Care

Source: The Trentonian
For more than a year now, the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA), its members, Freeholders, counties, and many other stakeholders have been saying that the Medicaid rates established by the state to take effect on July 1 of 2017 would lead to program closures, staff cuts and, subsequently, even more limited access to community-based mental health care than existed on June 30, 2017, before a majority of mental health programs were transitioned to a fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement model with several seriously inadequate rates.
Those impacts have been, and will continue to be, realized unless the state keeps providers fiscally viable by providing safety-net funding for FY2018, through supplemental funding, and for FY2019 through the current budget process. Last May, the a law was signed that required FFS oversight boards to be established and an independent study of the Medicaid rates to be conducted. The study must focus on the adequacy of rates, access to care, quality of care and continuity of care, according to the law.
While the Governor’s office recently requested nominations for the Boards, no appointments have been made yet, and no request for proposals for an independent study has been issued. Both supplemental funding and the independent study are necessary to restore stability to community-based behavioral health care. We have seen staff at provider agencies being let go at remarkable levels, leaving capacity reductions in their wake.
In the midst of a national shortage of psychiatrists, the downsizing has included a loss of these critical professionals, making the already very long wait for appointments even longer. While many outpatient mental health programs are being carried by revenues from other programs operated by some organizations, that cannot go on indefinitely, and not all providers have such an option at all.
We urge all New Jerseyans to let their state representatives know that they want the community-based system of care expanded, not shrinking. Community mental health programs are good for the state’s bottom line – preventing visits to the emergency room and hospitals, as well as homelessness and imprisonment. Most importantly, parity in mental health services in all communities is what New Jerseyans deserve.

By Mary Abrams, Senior Health Policy Analyst, New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA)

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