March 28, 2023
Statement from Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO, NJAMHAA
Barely three months into 2023, the 89th school shooting of the year occurred in Nashville yesterday. Actions must be taken immediately and on an ongoing basis — through strong legislation and expansion of the behavioral healthcare workforce — to prevent more tragedies in the future.
The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) is devastated to hear about the tragic loss of three students and three teachers and sends deepest, heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and communities affected by these tragic deaths.
As we anticipate that the dreadful elementary-school shooting will be a focus in the news for quite some time, it is important to emphasize that the repeated focus on the incident in traditional and social media can exacerbate the anguish or cause secondary trauma in many children, as well as adults. Immediate and ongoing access to treatment and support services is essential for all individuals to cope with the various traumas they have endured and will likely continue to experience.
New Jersey residents’ lives could be at risk and safety measures must be taken immediately. Strong legislation to help prevent such dreadful violence from happening again is essential.
In addition, steps must be taken to help everyone cope with the tragic impact of violence. Individuals who are directly involved in violent situations, as well as many others who are indirectly impacted, are likely to experience depression and anxiety and, therefore, need immediate and ongoing mental health care.
In fact, the need for services to address mental illnesses — as well as substance use disorders, which commonly co-exist with mental illnesses — has been increasing for years. The demand has risen dramatically during the pandemic, and incidents of violence add to the need for treatment and support services. However, many individuals do not receive the care they need because of the behavioral healthcare workforce crisis.
NJAMHAA is grateful that Governor Phil Murphy’s proposed FY2024 budget includes funding to expand and strengthen the behavioral healthcare workforce. We urge State Legislators to keep all of these provisions in the final budget bill and include other appropriations to strengthen the behavioral healthcare system and, as a result, significantly improve quality of life for every New Jersey resident. Please click here to read all of NJAMHAA’s budget and legislative priorities.