Assembly Committee Advances Resolution Urging Congress to Expand Resources for Mental Health & Addiction Treatment

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey released the following statement in response to the Assembly Human Services Committee approving their resolution calling on Congress to pass the federal “Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act,” which would expand the number of states able to participate in a Medicaid demonstration program that aims to improve access to community mental health and addiction treatment services.

“In recent years, we’ve pushed hard to lift the stigma on mental illness and addiction, but we need to match that with funding and resources that will help people get treatment,” said Downey (D-Freehold), chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee.

“With suicide now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, it’s clear that we need to act. If we want to fight back against challenging disorders like depression, anxiety, or substance abuse, our federal leaders need to swiftly approve this legislation and expand these life-saving programs to help millions of suffering adults and children across our country.”

The bipartisan federal bill (S.1905/H.R. 3931), introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would expand the number of states eligible to participate in the Medicaid demonstration program, which was established by the federal “Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014,” and extend the demonstration period for an additional year.

Now affecting over 40 million adults in the United States, mental illness is a significant public health issue. Disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, and anxiety can often seriously interfere with a sufferer’s ability to function at work and at home, and if left untreated, can become deadly.

Under this Medicaid program, patients would have access to 24-hour mobile crisis interventions, psychiatric rehabilitation services, and intensive community-based mental health care for members of the armed forces and veterans.

Addiction has also become a larger problem in recent years, especially in New Jersey, where more than 3,000 people die of drug overdoses annually. Services established by this program would continue to fill unmet needs for addiction care, supporting local criminal justice systems by rehabilitating addicts and increasing access to evidence-based treatment models.

“Mental illness and substance abuse disorders can leave families devastated - both financially and emotionally,” said Houghtaling (D-Neptune). “New Jersey needs our federal partners to stand up and help our residents get the assistance they need to begin the healing process and get their lives back on track.”

The resolution (AR-237) now proceeds to the Assembly Speaker for consideration.

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