New Law Creates Oversight Board to Monitor DHS's Transition to Fee-For-Service System

Bill Number: A4146/S2521

Description: Provides for monitoring and evaluation of transition of mental health and substance use disorder treatment service system and developmental disability system to fee-for-service reimbursement model.

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-14), Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D-19), Senator Robert M. Gordon (D-38), and other legislators was signed into law by Governor Christie on May 11, 2017. This new law establishes two oversight boards that will monitor the transition to a fee-for-service model for the mental health and addiction community and the developmental disability community.

These oversight boards will be tasked with working with service providers to evaluate their costs, revenue, business infrastructure needs and provide technical assistance and training throughout the transition period. The boards will be required to submit status reports to the Legislature, Governor, and the Department of Human Services at six months, one year and then a final report after two years.

“Our primary concern is to ensure that the transition to a fee-for-service payment system doesn't end up having a negative impact on the delivery of treatment by forcing service providers out of business and effectively limiting treatment options," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee. "We need to ensure the many people who suffer from severe mental illnesses or have developmental disabilities can still afford access to treatment."

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Eustace, Zwicker &Vainieri Huttle Bill to Require NJ's Full Participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Andrew Zwicker, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to require New Jersey's full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cleared the Assembly Environment panel on Thursday.

The bill would clarify the intent of existing law, and specifically require the State's full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is a cooperative effort among nine states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Governor Chris Christie withdrew from the program early in his first term.

"From the very beginning we believed that entering into agreements with other states will further the purposes of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the "Global Warming Response Act," said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). "The Governor's withdrawal from RGGI blatantly disregarded the importance of our participation in RGGI is to reducing greenhouse gas emission in our state. A return to the RGGI pact with full participation will get New Jersey back on the right environmental track."  

"There are many benefits to our full participation in RGGI," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). "New Jersey would benefit, as other states have, from a carbon dioxide emissions allowance trading program with incentives that will reduce emissions at their sources and the generation and emission of greenhouse gases. Reducing carbon emissions translates to less pollution and cleaner air for future generations."

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Vainieri Huttle Legislation Urging Port Authority Not to Recognize NY Transportation Inspector General Clears Panel

Legislation Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored to denounce a recent single-handed effort by New York to introduce an office overseeing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - a bi-state agency - was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The resolution (AR-226) objects to New York legislation creating the Office of the Inspector General of New York for Transportation. The legislation gives the office the power to investigate and prosecute criminal and unethical conduct at transportation entities, including the Port Authority.

The establishment of the office violates the terms of the Port Authority Compact, an agreement between New Jersey and New York that New York is not permitted to unilaterally modify, said Vainieri Huttle. The Port Authority, which already has an Office of Inspector General, does not require a new office that answers only to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, she noted.

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Vainieri Huttle-led Bill Package Targeting Homelessness in New Jersey Gains Assembly Panel Approval

The Assembly Human Services Committee on Thursday approved an expansive seven-bill package - spearheaded by Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle and sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Elizabeth Maher Muoio and Raj Mukherji - designed to reduce homelessness and help New Jersey residents get back on their feet.

In December, Vainieri Huttle and members of her committee visited the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center, which provides a 24/7, year-round continuum of housing services designed to abate homelessness. Following the visit, the committee held a special hearing to receive testimony on current state programs designed to target homelessness, as well as effective, new strategies that could be implemented to further prevent and reduce homelessness in New Jersey. The majority of the bills approved today were born out of these efforts.

"The descent into homelessness can happen rapidly for a number of reasons, but one thing we've learned is that the climb out can be arduous to near-impossible without a helping hand," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We've spent nearly the last six months examining the issue to find ways that we can maximize state resources so that they have a real and transformative impact on the lives of homeless residents in our state."

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Chaparro, Vainieri Huttle, Benson, Jimenez, Mukherji & Downey Bill to Establish Alert System for Hit-and-Runs Advances in Senate

(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Annette Chaparro, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel R. Benson, Angelica Jimenez, Raj Mukherji and Joann Downey sponsored to establish an emergency alert system to help more quickly apprehend drivers responsible for fatal hit-and-run accidents was released on Thursday by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

The legislation commemorates the life of Zackhary Simmons, a 21-year-old man who died in Hoboken in June after being hit by a vehicle that subsequently left the scene.

"I hope this bill reminds drivers thinking of fleeing an accident that the whole state will be looking for you, and you will be caught," said Chaparro (D-Hudson). "I want to thank the Simmons family for working so hard on this bill and sharing their time and inspiring this legislation to honor Zack and encourage other drivers to stop and help an injured person instead of cowardly fleeing a scene."

The bill (A-4184), to be known as "Zackhary's Law," would establish an alert system to facilitate the apprehension of someone who knowingly flees the scene of a motor vehicle accident that results in another person's death or serious bodily injury. Similar to the Amber and Silver Alert systems already in place, the Zack Alert system would be a voluntary, cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies, transportation agencies and the media.

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Johnson, Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Schaer & McKeon Legislation to Crack Down on Bias-Based False Threats Advances

Bill was inspired by string of bomb threats that rocked Jewish Community Centers in New Jersey & across the country earlier this year

An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Gary Schaer and John McKeon to stiffen the penalties for creating a false public alarm in light of the string of bomb threats that rocked the Jewish community in New Jersey and throughout the country earlier this year.

"This sends a strong message that hate-based intimidation will not be tolerated," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "While the persistent threats we saw earlier this year may have subsided, we want to make it clear that these types of bigoted threats will not be tolerated in our state."

New Jersey, along with a number of other states, was the target of a rash of bomb threats aimed at Jewish Community Centers, temples and schools earlier this year. An Israeli-American was indicted in April in connection with the threats, but not before the state boosted patrol efforts at houses of worship and increased grant money to help non-profits and religious institutions beef up security.

"No one should have to live in fear simply for going to their house of worship or their community center," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Anyone who might even think of making these types of hateful, bias-filled threats in the future should know that they will be held accountable."

Specifically, the bill (A-4732) would add creating a false public alarm to the list of underlying offenses for bias intimidation.

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Vainieri Huttle, Mosquera, Tucker, McKnight, Mukherji & Wimberly Bill to Protect Children & Adults with Developmental Disabilities Continues Advancing

'Stephen Komninos' Law' Would Put Measures in Place to Better Address Reports of Abuse and Neglect in State-Licensed Facilities

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gabriela Mosquera, Cleopatra Tucker, Angela McKnight, Raj Mukherji and Benjie Wimberly to better protect children and adults with development disabilities from potential abuse and neglect from caregivers gained approval from a Senate committee on Monday.

The bill (A-2503), known as "Stephen Komninos' Law," honors the memory of Stephen, an individual with developmental disabilities who died at the age of 22 while under the care of a private state-licensed facility for individuals with developmental disabilities. Stephen was a non-verbal young man who suffered through many substantiated incidents of abuse and neglect by caregivers. Tragically, the last incident resulted in his death.

"After suffering the tragic loss of Stephen Komninos, our goal is to prevent future tragedies," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This bill will institute a major overhaul to our system to put protections in place to help uncover any incidents of abuse or neglect before they end in tragedy and ensure that these incidents are addressed as swiftly as possible and those responsible are held accountable. Ultimately, our goal is to create an environment that does not tolerate abuse, neglect, or exploitation of individuals with developmental disabilities."

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Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Coughlin, McKnight & Mukherji Bill to Create Real-Time System to Track Available Psych Beds Continues Advancing

Legislation Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Craig Coughlin, Angela McKnight and Raj Mukherji sponsored to create a real-time system to track the number of psychiatric beds available statewide to treat mental health and substance use disorders was advanced Monday by a Senate committee.

"In 2015, we hosted a number of roundtable discussions and meetings on issues related to behavioral and mental health care, and professionals in the field continuously raised the need for increased information sharing on bed availability across the state," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Therefore, this legislation is designed to help providers and emergency rooms to quickly place patients in need of behavioral health services for the appropriate treatment."

"The systematic closure of psychiatric hospitals over the last half century has left most states with a serious shortage of inpatient treatment options, forcing many patients to wait endlessly in emergency rooms until a bed opens," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "A real-time system to track the availability of existing beds will help ensure that our existing resources are maximized and people are treated more quickly."

"The shortage of treatment options for mental health and substance abuse issues is well-documented and lies at the root of many problems plaguing society," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "Getting a better handle on available treatment beds will help get more people on the road to treatment or recovery and help rebuild lives."

"It can be difficult for people experiencing these problems to seek help. The last thing we need to do is discourage their motivation to get better by making them wait," said McKnight (D-Hudson). "This system would make the treatment process more efficient and allow individuals who require mental health and substance abuse treatment to get the care they need more promptly."

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Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Pinkin, Jasey & Johnson Bill to Protect Transgender Persons from Discrimination in Health-Care Coverage Advances in Senate

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Nancy Pinkin, Mila Jasey and Gordon Johnson to prohibit health insurers from denying transgender individuals health care coverage based on gender identity was advanced by the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday.

"Now more than ever, we need to stand up for those who are being marginalized," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Antiquated policies and attitudes towards transgender individuals have led to discrimination, violence, depression and suicide. While tremendous strides have been made in recent years to advance equality for members of the 'LGB' community, much more still needs to be done to help protect our brothers and sisters in the 'T' community."

"Although we've seen greater awareness in recent years of the challenges faced by transgender individuals, they still often face fierce cultural and institutional discrimination," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "It's incumbent upon us as government officials to stand up for all of our constituents who are being ignored or discriminated against by ensuring that we enshrine equality in our laws."

The bill (A-4568) would prohibit health insurers and health maintenance organizations, as well as health benefits plans or contracts which are issued or purchased pursuant to the New Jersey Individual Health Coverage Program, New Jersey Small Employer Health Benefits Program, State Health Benefits Program, and School Employees' Health Benefits Program from discriminating in the provision of coverage on the basis of gender identity or expression. The prohibited discrimination relates to currently covered persons and prospective covered persons.

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Johnson, Vainieri Huttle & Wimberly Bill to Develop Sexual Assault Training Course for Police Gains Committee OK

Legislation Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to establish a sexual assault training course for law enforcement officers gained the approval of an Assembly committee on Thursday.

"We cannot tolerate a culture in which victims of sexual assault lack confidence in the men and women responsible for responding to them," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Developing a course so that officers can receive training on dealing with sexual assault appropriately will encourage reporting and reinforce our state's commitment to justice for every resident."

The bill (A-2167) would require the Division of Criminal Justice to develop a training course and curriculum for law enforcement officers on handling, investigation and response procedures for reports of sexual assault. The division then would make the course and curriculum, to be reviewed at least every two years, available to all New Jersey law enforcement officers.

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