Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Coughlin & McKnight Bill to Create Real-Time System to Track Available Psych Beds Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Craig Coughlin and Angela McKnight to create a "real-time" system to track the number of psychiatric beds available statewide to treat mental health and substance use disorders was approved Monday by the General Assembly. 

"Last year 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."

The bill (A-1662) would require the development and maintenance of a data dashboard report, which is to collect and track daily information about the number of open beds that are available for treatment for individuals in need of mental health or substance use disorder treatment in each facility in the State that is licensed to provide:

  • long term or extended care services for mental health or substance use disorders and receives State or county funding, including, but not limited to, a psychiatric facility, psychiatric unit of a general hospital, short-term care facility, and special psychiatric hospital, and a residential health care facility; or
  • acute or intermediate level of care services for mental health or a substance use disorder and receives State or county funding, including, but not limited to, a psychiatric facility, psychiatric unit of a general hospital, short-term care facility, and special psychiatric hospital.

Not less than once a day, each facility would be required to submit information advising of the number of open beds that are available on that day for the provision of mental health or substance use disorder services.

The information maintained in the data dashboard report would include, by county:

  • the address and telephone number of the residential facility;
  • the type of services provided by the facility;
  • the licensed bed capacity of the facility; and
  • the number of open beds that are available for the provision of residential behavioral health services.

The information would be:

  • prominently displayed on the website of the department;
  • made available to the public, upon request, through the Statewide 2-1-1 telephone system; and
  • made available using any other means that the Commissioner of Human Services deems appropriate.

The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services would convene a workgroup to assist in the monitoring of the data reporting requirements, which would include, at a minimum, one representative from each of the following organizations: the New Jersey Hospital Association; the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians; the Health Care Association of New Jersey; LeadingAge New Jersey; and other stakeholders as the division deems appropriate.

The bill was approved 77-0-1 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.