Daniel Hubbard, Englewood Patch
Legislation ensuring that schools and hospitals have ample access to Narcan to combat heroin overdoses advanced through the state Assembly Thursday.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-District 37) is co-sponsoring the legislation. The bill would amend the state Overdose Prevention Act. It would require the Bergen County Health Department to obtain and have keep on hand opioid antidotes, including Narcan, for schools, first responders, and hospitals. Whenever any of them is about to run out of their supply of Narcan or other similar medication, the county health department would be required to provide the individual or group with more of the medication from its reserve.
Narcan was administered 187 times in Bergen County in 2015. It helped save 170 of those lives.Read more
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Cheryl O'Brien, Teaneck Suburbanite
With football season in full swing, concussions are on the forefront of many parents’ and school officials’ minds as children head off to yet another game or practice. Reports of mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions, occurring in sports on professional, college and high school levels have created concern among parents, educators, and coaches for the children who play.
In an effort to raise awareness of the issue, Teaneck High School and the Balance and Concussion Therapy Center hosted a forum Sept. 12 with presentations by Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, Ken Cieslak, athletic trainer, Danit Macklin, physical therapist and owner of Balance and Concussion Therapy Center, and Todd Sinclair, athletic director.
Other school officials in attendance included Interim Superintendent Vincent McHale, Board of Education President Ardie Walser, Vice President David Diuguid, and Board Member David Gruber.
Principal Dennis Heck, a former football player and high school coach as well as a Teaneck Hall of Fame inductee, opened the event, noting the importance of recognizing the signs of a concussion and refraining from "playing through pain."
"There’s life after sports," he said. "It’s all about your mental and physical health."
Huttle acknowledged state legislation passed in 2010 that mandates school districts establish a policy for concussion management and spoke about a resolution she planned to introduce this week designating the third Friday in September as Concussion Awareness Day, beginning September 2017.
"Teaneck has always been in the forefront of bringing issues to light," she said, adding that it is important to pass a resolution statewide.Read more
Lilo H. Stainton, NJ Spotlight
Some healthcare providers fear the transition to a ‘fee-for-service’ system could lead to program closures and staff layoffs
Behavioral healthcare providers, patients, and their advocates have stepped up their campaign to secure additional funding and flexibility for New Jersey’s Medicaid payment system, despite Gov. Chris Christie’s recent insistence that reforms of that system must continue on schedule.
Community organizations that provide mental health and substance abuse treatments to outpatients, many covered by Medicaid, are working to enlist the help of state representatives to protect these safety-net programs. Earlier this month, a handful of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation that calls for greater oversight and analysis of the reform process.
Healthcare providers in northern New Jersey have also launched a petition urging state regulators to slow the pace of the next phase of the reform—which involves a transition to fee-for-service reimbursements for hundreds of provider organizations. And, across the state, these groups are working with patients and their families to increase awareness about the process, which they say could end services for tens of thousands of patients statewide.
Concerns have existed for months about the impact of the reform, in which the state is shifting from a system of annual contracts to one that reimburses organizations for each treatment they provide patients. These fears were exacerbated late last month, when Christie announced that the Department of Human Services, which oversees Medicaid and behavioral health services, would enforce the timeline now in effect.
While the vast majority of states shifted behavioral healthcare systems to fee-for-service payments years ago — and some are evolving even further, exploring managed care “bundled” payments designed to encourage more comprehensive and quality care — New Jersey is still in flux. Many substance abuse providers here have already made the switch to service-specific reimbursements from Medicaid, but others only began the transition in July. Mental health programs that have not yet made the switch were originally told to begin in January, but have since been granted an extension until July 2017. (The transition impacts behavioral healthcare providers; the state has already shifted most “physical” medical care to managed-care contracts for Medicaid clients.)Read more
Mary Jo Layton, The Record
Gov. Christie signed into law Wednesday a measure to create a hospital authority with sweeping powers over the management of Bergen Regional Medical Center, which has come under increased scrutiny amid allegations of violence at the facility.
An 11-member panel -- comprising the Bergen County executive, two people with expertise in finance and non-profit management and appointees of the governor – will supervise administrators, finances and operations of the largest hospital in the state.
Bergen County lawmakers proposed the measure following a report in The Record in May detailing hundreds of alleged assaults in units throughout the hospital. A 6-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by another patient, according to a police report and a lawsuit; fights broke out in detox units and locked-down wards and senior citizens were allegedly attacked in the long-term care unit, according to police reports.
The facility also came under increased scrutiny after a federal investigation resulted in a fine after eight workers were assaulted, four of whom needed medical treatment. The hospital, which provides psychiatric and addiction services, acute care and long-term care, is contesting the findings and maintains that the rate of incidents has decreased.
“I am pleased that we have been able to give the county the major tool it needs to guarantee public oversight over the next years as Bergen Regional fulfills a promise to all our residents to fulfill health care needs and to provide excellent care,’’ said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, a primary sponsor of the bill.
Weinberg has long called for more transparency not only in the operations at the medical center, but at all for-profit hospitals in New Jersey. Her efforts may have stalled in Trenton, but this bill permits the authority to have “independent access to the books and records of the hospital at all times,’’ the legislation notes.Read more
Jerry DeMarco, Paramus Daily Voice
PARAMUS, N.J. -- A hospital authority will ensure proper oversight and quality of care at Bergen Regional Medical Center in response to allegations of violence against patients and staff, state lawmakers said Wednesday, thanks to a bill signed into law by Gov. Christie.
“The incidents we have heard about are deeply troubling and show a serious lapse in oversight,” said state Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), one of the measure's several co-sponsors.
The move comes in response to hundreds of reports filed with police of alleged assaults and a federal investigation prompted by attacks on workers at the state's largest hospial (1,000 beds), which is owned by Bergen County but operated by a private for-profit company.
BRMC provides long-term care, psychiatric and substance-abuse treatment and acute care.
“While this law does not achieve every objective we would have liked," Vainieri Huttle said, "it still protects our overarching goal, which is creating an entity solely dedicated to the management of the hospital so that, at the end of the day, staff can provide the level of services that will ensure patients receive the care they need.”Read more
Susan K. Livio, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
TRENTON — If a child came home from day care or school with bruises, burns and broken bones, parents would rightfully demand an explanation and administrators would expect to be held accountable. So why do people with developmental disabilities deserve any less of a response?
Gus Egizi of Hammonton politely but firmly posed this question Monday to members of the Assembly Human Services Committee as they debated a bill that would impose stricter rules on state licensed group home operators.
Egizi said his 37-year-old son, Michael, suffered a sunburn so bad he needed hospital care, as well as multiple bruises and injuries while under the care of group home and hospital staff. He's hired lawyers to get answers, but those requests have been ignored.
"This would not be tolerated if it had happened at a day care center or a school," Egizi said. "This is a human rights issue. This is a civil rights issue."
Aileen Rivera, a councilwoman from Wayne, said her 31-year-old son still suffers from the anxiety from enduring beatings, being restrained for hours and humiliated when a worker urinated on him.Read more
Mary Jo Layton, The Record
An 11-member hospital authority would have sweeping powers over the management of Bergen Regional Medical Center if Gov. Christie as expected signs a bill lawmakers approved Thursday reflecting changes he sought in a conditional veto earlier this month.
The agency — comprising the Bergen Executive, county residents with expertise in finance and non-profit management, and appointees of the governor — would supervise administrators, finances and operations at the state’s largest hospital, under the terms of the revised measure.
“The important benefits of creating this hospital authority have been preserved even with the governor’s conditional veto,” said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, the Teaneck Democrat who’s a primary sponsor of the bill.
“Most important, it provides for an 11-member board with appropriate oversight and a sole responsibility to make sure the facility does well while protecting the public interest,” she added.
The Republican governor removed language from the original bill that created mandates on prevailing wages and project labor agreements for work or services provided at the hospital, strategies that the GOP has long maintained drive up the cost of business. However, the governor said “a single-purpose authority is likely necessary to oversee the state’s largest, publicly owned hospital.’’
A 19-year contract between the Bergen County Improvement Authority and Bergen Regional Medical Center LP, the current for-profit manager of the publicly owned hospital, is scheduled to expire in March. County officials are seeking proposals from companies to run the hospital and so far a dozen, including the current managers, have expressed interest.
The bill, which was approved overwhelmingly in both houses Thursday, was proposed following a report in The Record earlier this year detailing hundreds of alleged assaults in units throughout the hospital in recent years. A 6-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted, fights broke out in detox units and locked-down wards and senior citizens were allegedly attacked in the long-term care unit, according to police reports and interviews with families. The Paramus facility also came under increased scrutiny after a rare federal investigation into assaults on staff resulted in a fine.Read more
Anjalee Khemlani, NJBIZ
Borrowing from military and public health practices, a growing trend to help care for populations in underserved areas is once again being introduced in New Jersey.
By offering partial reimbursements for medical school tuition, in exchange for working in designated underserved areas, the state hopes to fill a shortage in mental health care.
The bill by Assemblywomen Mila Jasey (D- Maplewood) and Valerie Huttle (D-Englewood) and Assemblyman John McKeon (D- Madison), which was introduced in June, was advanced by an Assembly panel Thursday.
“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. “Mostly low-income urban and rural communities are without access to these services. This bill is about creating opportunity and access for residents.”
The bill calls for the Commissioner of Health to designate underserved areas, based on health status and economic indicators, which are in need of psychiatrists. The physicians must provide care for patients regardless of ability to pay, according to the bill.
The bill allows for a reimbursement if the psychiatrist is a resident of New Jersey, a state-licensed physician and applies for the program within a year of completing a residency. The physician must agree to stay and practice in the area for a period of one to four years, according to the bill.Read more
Susan K. Livio, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Legislators say they are worried that Gov. Christie may make changes to a bill that would create an authority to oversee Bergen Regional Medical Center.
The bill, S2361, passed the Senate 25-11 and the Assembly 52-25 in June. If Christie signs it, the legislation would create a committee to oversee Bergen Regional, moving the hospital out from under the auspices of the Bergen County Improvement Authority.
The 11-member committee would include representatives with expertise in the financial and healthcare fields.
Proponents of the legislation hope the committee would be able to more closely monitor the hospital's administration and eradicate some of the problems the Paramus facility has seen during its 19 year partnership with BCIA.
Specifically, legislators point to the reports of violence by patients toward caregivers, which earned the hospital a citation from federal officials.
"I would hope the governor realized the issues of the sins of the past that we would be able to correct," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), a sponsor of the bill.Read more