Vainieri Huttle, Mukherji and Sumter Bill to Improve Delivery of Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services in Prison Now Law

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Raj Mukherji and Shavonda Sumter to address prison-based mental health and substance abuse treatment programs in order to improve long-term outcomes for the incarcerated has been signed into law. 

The law (A-3722), sponsored by Vainieri Huttle, Sumter and Mukherji, requires the commissioners of Human Services and Corrections to formulate a plan to provide adequate and appropriate mental health and substance use disorder services to inmates in all state-owned, operated or contracted correctional facilities.

"Addiction and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand with incarceration," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "You can't treat these underlying health issues with incarceration alone. This law will help more inmates get the services they need to stay on the right path after release."

"Without treatment for their underlying problems, these individuals will continuously be subjected to a vicious cycle of recidivism with little hope for reclaiming or improving their lives," Mukherji (D-Hudson). "This helps ensure they receive the treatment they need to break the cycle."

"Treatment offers the best chance for an inmate to break the cycle of incarceration," said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). "More often than not, it was substance abuse or mental health issues that landed an individual in prison in the first place. If we can ensure more people get treatment and avoid incarceration, we can address a lot of the challenges that plague our society as a whole."

The plan shall include, but need not be limited to, the following

  • 1) Procedures for identifying a person in need of mental health and substance use disorder services when the person is initially admitted and while they are confined therein
  • 2) Procedures for providing a mental health and substance use disorder evaluation to determine whether the person is in need of such services
  • 3) Procedures for providing adequate and appropriate mental health or substance use disorder treatment to a person determined to be in need
  • 4) Enumeration of the types of mental health and substance use disorder treatment that may be provided to a person determined to be in need, such as individual or group counseling, treatment with prescription drugs, and increased monitoring as needed to prevent harm to self or others, which
  • 5) may include confinement in a secure hospital setting
  • 6) Procedures for the provision of medication-assisted treatment in substance use disorder treatment programs, as appropriate and available
  • 7) Procedures for terminating the treatment provided when it is no longer needed by the person receiving it;<
  • 8) Identifying community mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers and services to assist in a person's community reintegration upon discharge from a state-owned, operated, or contracted correctional facility
  • 9) Procedures for ensuring cooperation between the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services at all personnel levels and at every stage of identification, evaluation, treatment , and termination of treatment so that adequate and appropriate mental health and substance use disorder services are provided
  • 10) Procedures for maintaining the confidentiality of mental health and substance use disorder treatment records; and
  • 11) Procedures for biennial review and revision of the plan.

Under the law, the Department of Human Services is also authorized to develop a plan to provide mental health and substance use disorder services to inmates in county-operated correctional facilities, in consultation with the county-designated individual or entity charged with the planning of treatment services for county inmates.

The law also requires that mental health and substance use disorder treatment services in state-owned, operated or contracted facilities, as well as halfway houses, be provided by licensed providers.