2021 Highlights of NJAMHAA's Impact and a Look Ahead to 2022

2021 was another whirlwind of a year and despite the pandemic and other challenges, both new and ongoing, our trade association is persevering in its efforts to continually strengthen the behavioral healthcare system and increase access to the vital services that all of you provide.

The year marked a meaningful milestone for NJAMHAA - our 70th anniversary - and we continued to achieve significant impact through our advocacy all year long. For example, for the FY2022 State Budget, we secured:

  • $108 million for children's service rate increases
  • An additional $5 million for the School-Based Youth Services Program (SBYSP), following full restoration of funding that would have been cut from the revised FY2021 State Budget - NJAMHAA was successful in getting the $5 million released to existing programs and in having sign-on and retention bonuses accepted as allowable expenses for these funds.
  • $11 million to expand the Early Intervention Support Services (EISS) program to 10 more counties, as well as additional support for existing EISS programs
  • A $40 million increase for Charity Care

And that's just the State Budget! We also continued to influence federal budgetary decisions, as well as legislation on the state and federal levels, and regulations. Highlights include:

  • New state telehealth legislation (P.L.2021, c.310), was amended to ensure clients may receive services, regardless of their physical locations, a change that NJAMHAA made happen. The law also extends the requirement for health benefits plans to reimburse healthcare providers at the same rate as in-person services for two years. NJAMHAA was also responsible for having audio-only telehealth kept in at parity for behavioral health.
  • NJAMHAA secured a conditional veto of A4435 (now signed into law as P.L.2021, c.323) to ensure community-based providers have a level playing field when applying for future SBYSP contracts.
  • NJAMHAA also successfully advocated to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services for providers to be able to keep Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness surpluses.
  • On the regulatory front, NJAMHAA succeeded in having changes made to the Medicaid policy and billing procedures related to presumptive drug screening and definitive drug testing.
  • On the federal level, NJAMHAA successfully advocated to include behavioral health workers in definitions provided in COVID-related grant announcements, bills and guidelines.
  • Also on the federal level, NJAMHAA's relentless advocacy contributed significantly to expansion of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics demonstration program through September 30, 2023, including the enhanced federal match for the duration.

These achievements - just a few among literally scores of successes - continue our 70-year trend of influencing state and federal budgets,
legislation and regulations. Please click here for details on our rich history in our 70th anniversary commemorative publication and here to view our 70th anniversary video, which features Governors Richard Codey, James E. McGreevey and Chris Christie, as well as several past and present NJAMHAA Board members. It's noteworthy that Governor Phil Murphy was present via video at our 70th Anniversary Celebration on May 20th.

In addition, NJAMHAA hosted a gubernatorial forum with Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-14th District), representing Gov. Murphy, and Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli. NJAMHAA also held several legislative forums with Asm. Benson; Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3rd District) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19th District); Senator Vin Gopal (D-11th District); Asm. Gordon Johnson (D-37th District); and Assemblywomen Joann Downey (D-11th District), Mila Jasey (D-27th District) and Shavonda Sumter (D-35th District).

We have so much to look forward to and strive for in 2022. We will continue with and expand our advocacy campaign, Diverse Faces, Many Lives: New Jerseyans Rely on Mental Health and Substance User Services to Thrive.

And, just as the year was to sunset, NJAMHAA unveiled its dynamic, newly designed website that illustrates NJAMHAA's commitment to increasing access to services for everyone in New Jersey's richly diverse population and features easier navigation.

I hope to see all of you at many upcoming meetings and our Spring Conference, Nurturing Diverse Communities, which will be held virtually on April 5, 2022. This event will feature keynote presenter John F. Kelly, PhD, ABPP, Spallin Professor of Psychiatry in Addiction Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Recovery Research Institute, Center for Addiction Medicine, and Chuck Ingoglia, MSW, President and CEO, National Council on Mental Wellbeing.

Click here for information about sponsorship, exhibiting and advertising opportunities, and stay tuned for more details on the program.

Warmest wishes for a safe and happy holiday and a 2022 filled with the best of health, peace, joy and success,

Debra L. Wentz, PhD
President and CEO

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