Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Legislative Round-up

After a hectic spring, the N.J. Legislature settled into its Summer Recess. This then is a time to catch our collective breath and take stock of how far our issues have come. The entire Assembly is on the ballot this November 3. Subsequently, the last two months of 2015 will constitute the “Lame Duck” session of the 2014/15 legislative Term. This is a period in which many of the pending bills that are outstanding in the Lower House will be acted upon before beginning the new 2016/17 Term. NCADD-NJ will continue to be a presence in the hallways of the Statehouse, as well as, in the District offices of Senators and Assembly members, advocating for quality treatment and recovery services for those seeking a respite from the disease of addiction.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of our Advocate Leaders, the message of addiction as an illness has resonated with a majority of our state’s decision-makers. The result of that refinement of thinking has been that we spend most of our time pushing for enhancements to public policies instead of battling to block negative measures. The following are some of the proposals that NCADD-NJ has been supporting:

S.2381/A.3723 – Permit the use of medication-assisted treatment in drug court, prisons and jails – Signed into law

A.3719/S.2377 – Directs all public, four-year colleges and universities, in which at least 25% of undergraduate students live in on-campus housing, to establish a substance abuse recovery housing program. The purpose of the recovery housing is to provide a supportive substance-free dormitory environment. – Signed into law

S.2058/A.3738 – Authorizes establishment of three pilot recovery alternative high schools that provide a secondary school education and support a substance dependency plan of recovery – Passed Legislature, Governor’s Conditional Veto

A.3602 and S.3164 – Would initiate a Certificate of Rehabilitation – On Assembly Floor, in Senate committee

A.206/A.471/S.552 – Would automatically expunge the convictions of a person who successfully completes Drug Court – Passes Assembly, on Senate Floor

SJR56/AJR87 – Establish an Opioid Antidote Commission to study and report on procedures to be used following the administration of an opiate blocker to a hospital patient – In committee

S.53 – Requires correctional facilities to provide inmates with medication that was prescribed for chronic conditions existing prior to incarceration – In committee

A.2982/S.478 – Allow persons on parole and probation to vote – In committee

A.3159/S.2457 – Provides that an inmate in a state prison who is otherwise eligible for drug treatment cannot be denied access to an on-site program solely based on that prisoner having any detainer or open charge issued against her/him – In Senate committee, on Assembly Floor

S.2806 – Removes restrictions on certain convicted drug offenders receiving General Assistance (formerly Welfare) benefits under Work First NJ program – In committee

S.52/A.3730 – Would require certain doctors working in jails or prisons to take a course recommended by the state, in how to deal with individuals with addictions – In committee   

By Ed Martone, Policy Analyst

Thursday, August 06, 2015

While ACA subsidies stand, so do BH challenges

When I read about the Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act in King Vs Burwell, I thought of the impact from two perspectives. First, a general sense of relief that millions of people would not lose their health insurance subsidies, and then a more specific focus would affect those suffering from behavioral health issues.  Sometimes these numbers hit me with great force. Nine million Americans suffer from a mental health or substance abuse disorder.  I begin to wonder, of those millions, how many would be affected if the ruling was not in favor of the ACA

Then I inadvertently came across this story http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/23/living/feat-cnn-parents-facebook-chat-mental-health-addiction/index.html and was happy to see that there are parents using social media as a means to spread the word and be solution-oriented toward behavioral health issues. These parents are communicating wonderfully with each other.  Communication, in my opinion is half of the reason for dysfunction in families to begin with. For many parents, including myself, when we come across an article that talks about education and leading by example as part of the solution to prevention or reduction of behavioral health challenges, I feel incredibly frustrated for the parents out there who do everything right and their child still struggles. While I think it is important to promote parental education, it is also important to say that there are some people who will struggle in spite of this. We as parents want to believe our influence is so much greater than our own child’s innate wiring.

I am finding in any discussions around ACA, people tend to think of behavioral health treatment as some sort of residential stay. At least most people I talk to that are not in the Behavioral Health field seem to have this perception, when most addiction treatment is outpatient and consists of many hours of group and or counseling. Even this clinically lower level of care is extremely costly to someone who has no insurance. A licensed therapist alone will cost anywhere from $150-$250, depending on their credentials. See http://addictionblog.org/FAQ/costs/how-much-does-addiction-counseling-cost/

Now I consider of those nine million affected by behavioral health. How many have co-occurring medical illness that requires ongoing or acute care. The healthcare system has a long way to go in addressing solutions such as treatment capacity and equal care for mental health and addiction, but cutting off subsidies over a few ambiguous words would only have further exacerbated a broken system.

Dorene Kinloch
Communications Specialist