Vainieri Huttle Concerned that Christie’s Plan to Reorganize Mental Health & Addiction Services Will Move Forward without Key Answers or Details
(TRENTON) – Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) expressed disappointment Thursday that the Christie administration’s plan to transfer the state's mental health and addiction services from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Health will now seemingly move forward.
Vainieri Huttle was the lead sponsor of legislation passed by the Assembly in July that would have blocked this move based on a litany of concerns regarding the content, potential effects, and timing of the planned reorganization. With the plan scheduled to go into effect on Monday, the Senate had scheduled a voting session for tomorrow to take up the matter, however, the session was cancelled this afternoon.
“I’m extremely disappointed that this plan will seemingly take effect now when we still haven’t received any details or answers to the host of questions we have about its implementation.
“With the fate of so many of our most vulnerable residents hanging in the balance, it seems careless to embark on such a complex transition without concrete details when the current administration has one foot out the door. As I have said repeatedly, we have no idea what the impact of this restructuring will be on those who rely on these services, but the one thing we do know is that a change of this magnitude should not be undertaken without those answers.
“Ultimately, I would like to see the governor reconsider this plan but, if not, this transition must be undertaken carefully and not hastily. Hopefully the next administration will reexamine this issue thoroughly to ensure that it is in fact the right thing to do for those suffering from mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities,” said Vainieri Huttle.
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help towns crack down on smoking in public places without criminalizing smokers has been signed into law.
Specifically, the law (A-2368) authorizes a municipality to adopt an ordinance that provides a civil penalty of up to $200 for smoking in a public place without the option for incarceration of up to 30 days that exists under current law.
“Everybody should be entitled to breathe air free of smoke,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This will tweak our current law to make sure there’s a clear enough disincentive to prevent people from violating the Smoke-Free Air Act without criminalizing smokers and threatening to throw them in jail.”
Current law limits the discretion of a municipality in regard to imposing a penalty for smoking in public places by requiring that the penalty be for a petty disorderly persons offense, which would include imprisonment for up to 30 days or a criminal fine of up to $200, or both.
This new law provides a municipality with the option to adopt an ordinance that penalizes smoking in a public place without making it a criminal offense or subjecting an offender to possible incarceration while still permitting the municipality to make the activity a disorderly persons offense as it is authorized to do under current law. The law takes effect immediately.
Assembly OKs Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Tucker, McKnight & Benson Measure Barring Christie from Transferring Addiction & Mental Health Services
Resolution Cites Lack of Planning, Details & Consultation with Stakeholders; Now Awaits Senate Consideration
(TRENTON) – By a vote of 42-25, the General Assembly on Monday approved a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Cleopatra Tucker, Angela McKnight and Daniel Benson to block Gov. Christie’s plan to transfer the functions of the state’s mental health and addiction services from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Health.
Last week, the Assembly Human Services Committee, chaired by Vainieri Huttle, held a joint hearing on the plan with the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee at which time representatives from over 20 organizations and stakeholders expressed concerns regarding the content, potential effects, and timing of the planned reorganization.
“I wholeheartedly agree that mental health and substance abuse diagnoses are indeed health issues and that primary physical healthcare must be integrated with mental healthcare and addiction treatment,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “However, the hasty, unilateral approach the administration has employed in going about this leaves little confidence that this is being undertaken in the right manner. Mental health and addiction experts who testified at the joint legislative hearing we held last week adamantly agree that this is not a viable way to make this happen.”Read more
Human Services Chairwoman Questions Wisdom of Transferring Addiction & Mental Health Services after Joint Legislative Hearing
(TRENTON) – Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) questioned Gov. Christie’s decision to transfer the state’s mental health and addiction services from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Health after receiving several hours of testimony from providers and advocates during a joint hearing with the Senate on Tuesday.
“One thing advocates made repeatedly clear today is that the Christie administration did not consult with any of them to gauge the impact this overhaul will have on some of our most vulnerable populations. That’s extremely concerning on many levels.
“Perhaps the most pressing concern involves timing. With less than six months left in his term, Gov. Christie has ordered a massive restructuring of mental health and addiction services to take place in less than 60 days. With the state of healthcare in limbo at the federal level and a new state administration poised to take over in six months, consciously choosing to inject turmoil into an already chaotic situation seems ill-advised at best and extremely irresponsible at worse.
“We have no idea what the impact will be on providers on the ground who are already grappling with the challenges of the fee-for-service transition. We also have no idea how this will impact individuals and their families, many of whom suffer from both mental health issues and developmental disabilities and will now have to deal with two different departments when navigating an already difficult system.
“This hearing raised more questions than answers. But one thing we do know is that a restructuring of this magnitude should not be undertaken without those answers.”
New Jersey Becomes Just Third State to Raise Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21 as Vainieri Huttle & Conaway Bill is Signed into Law
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic cigarette devices from 19 to 21 was signed into law on Friday, making New Jersey just the third state in the nation, behind Hawaii and California, to raise the minimum age to 21.
“Many people start smoking in their teens because of peer pressure or the desire to fit in,” Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Most teens feel invincible at that age and can’t fully comprehend the potential for addiction as well as the devastating long-term effects smoking can have on their health. Raising the purchasing age will give them the chance to mature more before making this potentially life-altering decision.”
Specifically, the law (A-2320) raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco and electronic smoking devices from 19 to 21, and raises the minimum age from 19 to 21 years of a person to whom a vendor may sell, offer for sale, distribute, give or furnish such products in New Jersey.
“Smoking is responsible for nearly half a million deaths in the Unites States each year,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “In the last five years, cigarette smoking declined among middle and high school students, an encouraging trend. But there are still far too many young people engaging in smoking so it’s clear we need to do more to help deter them from picking up this dangerous and deadly habit.”
The law also amends various related statutes concerning penalties, fines, signage requirements, non-face-to-face transactions, and enforcement provisions to reflect the increased minimum age.
Lampitt, Coughlin, Conaway, Vainieri Huttle, Lagana & Mukherji ‘Telemedicine’ Bill Heads to Gov’s Desk
Legislation Will Improve Access to Health Care by Allowing Use of Technology to Treat Patients Remotely
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Craig Coughlin, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Lagana and Raj Mukherji to improve access to health care by allowing practitioners to use technology to treat patients remotely in a more efficient and cost-effective manner received final legislative approval on Thursday, and now heads to the governor’s desk.
Specifically, the bill (A-1464) would authorize health care practitioners in the state to deliver health care services, and establish a practitioner/patient relationship, through the use of telemedicine, after an initial in-person visit.
“The benefits to telemedicine are enormous,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “It will make it quicker and easier to access treatment, drive up practices, lower costs and, most importantly, make sure patients get the treatment they need, when they need it, to improve their long-term health.”
“Telemedicine,” as defined by the bill, means the delivery of a health care service using electronic communications, information technology, or other electronic or technological means to bridge the gap between a health care provider who is located at a distant site and a patient who is located at an originating site, either with or without the assistance of an intervening health care provider. Telemedicine does not include the use, in isolation, of audio-only telephone conversation, electronic mail, instant messaging, phone text, or facsimile transmission.Read more
Lampitt, Coughlin, Conaway, Vainieri Huttle, Lagana & Mukherji “Telemedicine” Bill Gains Assembly Panel Approval
Legislation Will Improve Access to Health Care by Allowing Use of Technology to Treat Patients Remotely
(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Craig Coughlin, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Lagana and Raj Mukherji to improve access to health care by allowing practitioners to use technology to treat patients remotely in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
Specifically, the bill (A-1464) would authorize health care practitioners in the state to deliver health care services, and establish a practitioner/patient relationship, through the use of telemedicine, after an initial in-person visit.Read more
Measure Will Allow Pharmacies to Dispense Antidote without Rx
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Vince Mazzeo, Raj Mukherji, Joann Downey and Benjie Wimberly to ensure that opioid antidotes are available to help prevent overdoses was signed into law on Friday
The new law (S-295/A-2334) will expand public access to opioid antidotes, such as naloxone hydrochloride, in order to allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone to any person, without a prescription, pursuant to a standing order issued by a prescriber or, upon request by the pharmacist, pursuant to a standing order issued by the Commissioner of Health or the Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services.
“This law takes a different approach in permitting individual pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription, pursuant to a standing order issued by the Department of Health,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Ultimately, this means the possibility of more lives saved if a pharmacist doesn’t have to obtain an individual order from a physician each time.”
A number of large chain pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, recently announced that they are making naloxone available to anyone without a prescription through what appears to be a standing order issued by a doctor, which is currently authorized under the “Overdose Prevention Act” (OPA).
“Naloxone has proven to be a life-saver. And each life we save provides another chance to get that person into addiction treatment and hopefully put them on the road to recovery and a vastly different outcome,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).Read more
Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Coughlin, McKnight & Mukherji Bill to Create Real-Time System to Track Available Psych Beds Advances
(TRENTON) - 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 Thursday 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."Read more
Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Sumter, Lampitt Bill Package to Improve Access to Critical Behavioral Health Services in NJ Gains Assembly Committee Approval
(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday approved a comprehensive two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Shavonda Sumter and Pamela Lampitt to significantly improve New Jersey's approach to behavioral health crisis care by expanding services and access throughout the state.
The bills are the product of numerous roundtable discussions and meetings that Schaer held with professionals and stakeholders in the field of behavioral and mental health care.
"We heard concerns time and time again relating to crisis services throughout the state," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The result is this bill package that has gone through an extensive stakeholder process. Early intervention and support is paramount when it comes to behavioral health care. With these bills, we will be taking common sense steps to improve and modernize our services, benefiting patients and their families."Read more