All of All of New Jersey’s Diverse Residents Need Behavioral Health Care to Thrive

Children and adults throughout New Jersey represent every ethnicity, race, language, culture, gender identity and religion, and many of them have mental health and/or substance use disorders (SUD). However, many do not have access to community-based services that have been proven to be highly effective in addressing these health conditions. As a result, disparities in health are exacerbated, leaving many without opportunities not only to achieve physical and mental well-being, but also to pursue education, employment and other important goals.

"Access to behavioral healthcare and support services is essential for achieving social justice and equity. Although mental health and substance use disorders may not be visible, they are common throughout New Jersey's multicultural population, and they have been intensified by the pandemic, Hurricane Ida and other natural catastrophes, and manmade disasters," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA). "The number of children and adults needing behavioral healthcare services has increased exponentially as a result of these traumatic situations, which have also exposed striking inequities in not only the high rate of mental illnesses and substance use disorders, but also access to health care," Dr. Wentz said.

NJAMHAA is launching a campaign, Diverse Faces…Many Lives: New Jerseyans Rely on Mental Health and Substance Use Services to Thrive, to underscore that without increased resources for the community-based behavioral health system, thousands of children, youth, adults and seniors in our diverse state will not be able to access the services they need to recover from mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

For example, Isabella has been struggling alcoholism for more than 10 years. Before the disease overtook her life, she had a good career in the casino industry and was married with two children. At the age of 40, she went back to school to study nursing. Despite the challenges of being in school while raising a family and working full-time, she graduated and became a licensed practical nurse. However, three years ago, Isabella relapsed and lost everything, including her family and her home. She received treatment at Maryville Addiction Treatment Center and is back on the road to recovery.

Unfortunately, many children and adults miss opportunities to achieve successes such as Isabella's because of limited access to mental healthcare and SUD services.

"There is a simple solution: To move toward equity in health care, contracts and fee-for-service rates for mental health and substance use treatment and supports need to be increased to match the cost of care and provide for a stable workforce. Without these resources, our diverse population will not be able to access the services they need and deserve to live their healthiest and most fulfilling lives possible," Dr. Wentz said.

Click here to download NJAMHAA's advocacy campaign.


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