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A New Jersey assemblyman and Morris County leaders raised a red flag over the looming change to the state’s funding of mental health services at NewBridge Services’ Race to Sustain Hope Gala on April 21.
Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-Morris) urged guests to contact their legislators and talk to friends and neighbors. “I implore you to make your voices heard!” Bucco said at the event, held at the Wyndham Hamilton Park Hotel and Conference Center. (Residents can find their representatives by municipality at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/municipalities.asp.)
Under fee-for-service funding, which takes effect July 1, the state will only reimburse providers for services considered “billable,” in some cases at rates that do not cover actual costs. The state will no longer pay when clients miss sessions (not unusual for people with mental illness), and supportive services that help clients stick to their treatment plan — follow-up phone calls, help managing daily responsibilities — are not covered.
The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Services estimates as many as 20,000 state residents could lose access to treatment.
“Where do the 10,000 people go, and who picks up the cost?” Bucco said, noting that hospital emergency rooms, jails, police departments and rescue squads will all be strained.
Attorney Marcy McMann, chair of the Morris County Mental Health Addictions Services Advisory Board, and Morris County Freeholder Christine Myers explained the dilemma facing county residents who rely on community nonprofits for treatment of mental illness.
“This new system, it’s not working for us!” Myers said. Last month, the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution urging the state to put fiscal safeguards in place during the transition to fee-for-service funding, or to delay its implementation.
“Unless the state adds safeguards to the new fee-for-serving funding, NewBridge and other community mental health providers will cease being the safety net that has sustained people in need for more than 40 years,” NewBridge CEO Robert L. Parker said.
Guests at the gala also heard from NewBridge Jobs Plus alumna Fergie Romero, who became emotional describing how the alternative education program helped her earn a New Jersey high school diploma and launch a career in community health care.
More than 160 people attended the gala, which raised $100,000 for NewBridge. The event was sponsored by: the Holmes Family Foundation; Wyndham Worldwide; The Robert Collins Fund; Columbia Bank; Boiling Springs Savings Bank; and Christian Health Care Center. Friends of NewBridge sponsors include: Atlantic Health Systems, CR Bard, Fulton Bank of NJ, Genoa, Murphy McKeon P.C., PSE&G, Robert L. Parker, Art Schmidt and Betty Cass-Schmidt.
Last year alone, NewBridge helped 10,000 children, adults and seniors a year through counseling, housing and education programs in Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties, and elsewhere. NewBridge began as a local mental health center in 1963 — the year as President John F. Kennedy called on Congress to create a national program for mental health — and has expanded and evolved over 54 years to meet the growing needs of its communities.
NewBridge Services, a 501c(3) nonprofit, is a premier provider of counseling services, housing and educational programs in northern New Jersey serving 10,000 adults and seniors last year alone. NewBridge treats mental illnesses and addictions; teaches skills for coping with stress, grief and challenging relationships; builds and manages affordable housing; offers school-based programs that teach children and adolescents resiliency skills for healthy emotional development; helps young adults succeed in their education and prepare for careers; and supports seniors so they can remain independent. Throughout its more than 50-year history, NewBridge has remained true to its mission of bringing balance to people’s lives by tracking shifts in communities’ needs and providing innovative, effective programs to meet them.