Now Law: Jasey, McKeon & Vainieri Huttle Bill Encouraging Mental Health Physicians to Work in Underserved Areas
Measure Establishes Tuition Reimbursement Program for Psychiatrists, Addressing Shortage of Mental Health Care Access in Certain Parts of the State
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, John McKeon and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to reimburse tuition for psychiatrists who work in underserved areas of the state has been signed into law.
“The reimbursement program will only be available to physicians who engage in the full-time practice of psychiatry in an area of need designated by the Commissioner of Health,” said Jasey (D- Essex/Morris). “The intent of this law is to increase access to much-needed care in underserved communities.”
Under the new law (S-2331/A-3962), the Commissioner of Health will designate, on the basis of health status and economic indicators, geographic areas of the state that have a shortage of physicians in the specialty of psychiatry. The program will provide reimbursement of a portion of medical school tuition expenses to psychiatrists who agree to provide mental health care services in one of these state underserved areas for a period of one to four years.
“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 (D- Essex/Morris). “Mostly low-income urban and rural communities are without access to these services. This law is about creating opportunity and access for residents.”
“There are many steps we must take as a state to improve and strengthen mental healthcare services,” said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). “This law is one of those steps toward expanding access to care for residents who need it.”
Program participants must be state residents, be state-licensed physicians who have completed all educational and residency training requirements for the practice of psychiatry and apply for the program within one year of completing an accredited residency program in psychiatry.
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.”
Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Chiaravalloti, Caride & Mukherji Bill to Increase Protections for Young People with Developmental Disabilities Receiving State Services Heads to Governor
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Marlene Caride and Raj Mukherji to provide protections for children and young adults with developmental disabilities who have been subjected to abuse or neglect gained final legislative approval, 76-2, from the General Assembly on Thursday.
The bill (A-3386) would provide protection for individuals with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 21 who have been subjected to abuse, neglect, or exploitation and are receiving services from the Division of Children’s System of Care (CSOC) in the Department of Children and Families.Read more
Vainieri Huttle, Benson, Muoio, Mukherji, Chiaravalloti, Singleton, Jones Package is designed to reduce homelessness & help residents get back on their feet
(TRENTON) – The full Assembly on Thursday approved an expansive six-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Raj Mukherji, Troy Singleton, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Patricia Egan Jones designed to reduce homelessness and help New Jersey residents get back on their feet.
“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. Cumulatively, these bills tackle the most pervasive factors that lead to or perpetuate homelessness.”Read more
Vainieri Huttle, McKnight & Mazzeo Bill to Ban Housing Discrimination against Disabled Residents with Guide/Service Dogs Heads to Governor
(TRENTON) – The full Assembly unanimously granted final legislative approval to a bipartisan bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angela McKnight and Vince Mazzeo that guarantees full and equal access to all housing for disabled individuals who retain their retired service or guide dog as a pet, even if they obtain a new service or guide dog.
“Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that they become much more than that over their lifetime. They become family. This is all the more true when it’s a pet that someone depends on for vital support,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This is a compassionate and practical change to help ease the lives of those dependent on service dogs.”
Under the bill (A-4096), the state’s “Law Against Discrimination” would guarantee full and equal access to all housing to disabled persons who retain their retired service or guide dog as a pet, and who also obtain a new service or guide dog to replace the retired dog.
“Service and guide dogs often retire eventually due to age or infirmity,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “That does not mean they’re not still in need of care and companionship. The natural fit is for them to remain with the companion who has grown attached to them over the years.”
“When a service dog retires, this change in status can be an obstacle for a disabled resident who wants to keep their dog as a pet, yet still needs to obtain a new service dog, if their housing situation prohibits or limits animals,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We need to rectify that.”
Additionally, the bill would also prohibit the payment of extra compensation for the retired pet.
The bill previously passed the Senate unanimously, as well, and now heads to the Governor’s desk. It would take effect immediately upon enactment.
Vainieri Huttle, Mosquera, Tucker, McKnight, Mukherji & Wimberly Bill to Protect Children & Adults with Developmental Disabilities Heads to Governor
‘Stephen Komninos’ Law’ Would Put Measures in Place to Better Address Reports of Abuse and Neglect in State-Licensed Facilities
(TRENTON) – 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 by caregivers is headed to the Governor’s desk after receiving final legislative approval unanimously from the full Assembly.
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.”
The bill would help protect and ensure accountability and transparency for adults and children with developmental disabilities through site visits, allowing a guardian or family member to attend or observe any investigation by the Department of Human Services in cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation and by increasing the penalty for certain crimes.Read more
Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Coughlin, McKnight & Mukherji Bill to Create Real-Time System to Track Available Psych Beds Goes to Governor
(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 approved 39-0 Monday by the Senate, giving it final legislative approval.
“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
Assembly Panel Approves Vainieri Huttle & Benson Bills to Make Sure Critical Health Services are Managed Properly
Bills were inspired by recent State Auditor reports that found mismanagement & deficiencies in Medicaid, FamilyCare & behavior health services
(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday approved two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Daniel Benson to address deficiencies identified recently by the State Auditor in the way the Department of Human Services delivers critical services to some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations.
The first bill (A-4769) is designed to ensure that New Jersey’s Medicaid and FamilyCare programs have adequate networks to meet the needs of participants and the second bill (A-4654) would revamp the system used to access services and resources for people with persistent behavioral health issues.
“The Auditor’s report brought to light some glaring deficiencies in the way the state manages critical health services for children, low-income families and residents who struggle with behavioral health issues,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We need to make sure that residents who need these services aren’t harmed by bureaucratic failures and instead can concentrate on getting themselves or their loved ones the services they need.”Read more
Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Sumter, Lampitt Bills to Improve Access to Critical Behavioral Health Services Gains Assembly Approval
(TRENTON) – The Assembly on Thursday approved 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
Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Chiaravalloti, Caride & Mukherji Bill to Increase Protections for Young Persons with Developmental Disabilities Receiving State Services Continues Advancing
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Marlene Caride and Raj Mukherji to provide protections for children and adults with developmental disabilities who receive care from programs operated or funded by the state and have been subjected to abuse or neglect was released Thursday by a Senate panel.
"With regards to abuse and neglect, the law fails to provide statutory provisions for our most vulnerable residents," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The legislation rectifies this oversight by requiring the state to institute regulations and monitor closely care service providers within the division as well as community providers."
Currently, there are no statutory provisions that specifically mandate the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to conduct a child abuse registry check on a person seeking employment at DCF, in facilities or programs licensed, contracted, regulated, or funded, as applicable, by DCF or DHS or seeking to provide community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Additionally, there are no regulatory provisions prohibiting a person included on the registry from obtaining such employment or providing such community-based services.
"There must be clear procedures in place to address complaints of abuse regarding children with developmental disabilities," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "It is essential for their protection and for ensuring the proper care of the state's most vulnerable citizens. This legislation is long overdue and absolutely necessary going forward."Read more