Jasey, McKeon & Vainieri Huttle Bill Encouraging Mental Health Physicians to Work in Underserved Areas Continues Advancing

Measure Establishes Tuition Reimbursement Program for Psychiatrists, Addressing Shortage of Mental Health Care Access in Certain Parts of the State

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, John McKeon and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to reimburse tuition for psychiatrists who work in underserved areas of the state continued advancing Thursday, receiving approval from the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

"The reimbursement program will only be available to physicians who engage in the full-time practice of psychiatry in an area of need designated by the Commissioner of Health," said Jasey (D- Essex/Morris). "The intent of this legislation is to increase access to much-needed care in underserved communities."

Under the bill (A-3962), the Commissioner of Health will designate, on the basis of health status and economic indicators, geographic areas of the state that have a shortage of physicians in the specialty of psychiatry. The program will provide reimbursement of a portion of medical school tuition expenses to psychiatrists who agree to provide mental health care services in one of these state underserved areas for a period of one to four years.

"The decrease in mental health centers in the state has left a void in care for New Jersey residents who rely on these services," said McKeon (D- Essex/Morris). "Mostly low-income urban and rural communities are without access to these services. This bill is about creating opportunity and access for residents."

"There are many steps we must take as a state to improve and strengthen mental healthcare services," said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). "This legislation is one of those steps toward expanding access to care for residents who need it."  

Program participants must be state residents, be state-licensed physicians who have completed all educational and residency training requirements for the practice of psychiatry and apply for the program within one year of completing an accredited residency program in psychiatry. 

The bill now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.