New Jersey is becoming a national model for behavioral health care, a recent national report indicated.
The creation of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic has transformed mental health and substance use disorder care, according to a recent report from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, entitled “Transforming State Behavioral Health Systems: Findings from State on the Impact of CCBHC Implementation.”
New Jersey was one of the first states in the nation to receive funding in 2017 to implement the CCBHC model to expand access to mental health and substance use care. Today, the state has 20 CCBHCs, seven of which began as demonstration sites as part of the original CCBHC Medicaid Demonstration program in 2017.
According to the report, the seven original clinics together served more than 20,000 individuals in the most recent year, up from more than 17,500 in their first year.
Dr. Debra Wentz, the CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, said the impact of CCBHCs is significant.
“They have lowered costs, improved outcomes and contributed to building critical substance use and mental health care system capacity in our communities,” she said. “The need is more urgent than ever — we lost 2,841 people in New Jersey to overdose deaths in 2020 alone, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
The National Council for Mental Wellbeing report highlights other successful outcomes from New Jersey’s seven initial CCBHCs:
- Increased access to care: New Jersey clinics reported 78% of new consumers having had initial evaluations within 10 business days of the first contact (an average of 7.2 days). The national average for initial evaluations is 48 days.
- Increased access to a comprehensive range of services: CCBHCs in New Jersey nearly doubled the number of clients receiving medication-assisted treatment from the first to the second demonstration year. Use of peer services increased 21% from the first to third demonstration year and supported employment, which had historically been underutilized, increased by 282%. Case management services increased from less than one-third of CCBHC clients in the first demonstration year to 83% in the second year.
- Increased follow-up for mental health and substance use care: In New Jersey, the rate of follow-up after hospitalization for mental illness nearly doubled in the second year of the CCBHC demonstration.
The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies is a statewide trade association representing 160 organizations that serve New Jersey residents with mental illness and/or substance use disorders, and their families. NJAMHAA members may be found in every county and almost every community statewide. They serve more than 500,000 children and adults each year and contribute to the economy through 61,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The CCBHC demonstration only exists in 10 states, and the grant funds operate on a two-year cycle, leaving grantees dependent on Congressional renewal and continued funding. This lack of certainty creates instability in the program and undermines the potential for long-term effectiveness and sustained fiscal benefit.
The bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act of 2021 would create much-needed financial stability of the program and a path for CCBHCs to continue expanded access and serve their communities.
Wentz said passage of the act would be of great help.
“The Excellence Act represents an important opportunity, for New Jersey and the nation, to address the growing need for expanded mental health and substance use treatment services,” she said. “I urge the New Jersey Congressional delegation to support this important legislation as part of the budget reconciliation package. We have made so much progress in New Jersey, and the Excellence Act helps to ensure that we will continue to move forward.”