NJ plans $480.5 million budget to bolster mental health services

This story originally appeared on NJ Spotlight.

Lawmakers trying to address the statewide need for mental health services have allocated funds for children’s programs, schools, the opioid epidemic, suicide prevention, a new line of crisis hotline, an expanded program for mental health professionals and more under the $50.6 billion budget signed last week by Governor Phil Murphy.

The push for more funding and a better allocation of mental health resources comes as New Jerseyans continue to seek mental health services to deal with the emotional toll of an ongoing pandemic while grappling with the need more therapists statewide.

A National Alliance on Mental Illness fact sheet based on February 2021 data indicates that 1.11 million adults in New Jersey have a mental health condition. That’s more than three times the population of Newark, the state’s largest city. Additionally, 42.2% of adults in the state reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. Of this group, 19.9% ​​were unable to get the counseling or therapy they needed.

“Now more than ever, our children need better access to mental health services and a stronger support system,” said MP Sadaf F. Jaffer (D-Somerset). “Adequate funding for these services is vital for child development and well-being. Budget 2023 funding will give more New Jersey children the opportunity to receive mental health services and ultimately get the help they need. It will make a substantial difference in the lives of many people.

Here are highlights of key funding for mental health services in the new state budget:

Funding for more mental health professionals

State lawmakers plan to distribute a total of $480.5 million in grants to the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Human Services. Grants refer to money given by the state to fund a program or project that does not need to be repaid because it is not a loan.

Of that amount, $5.62 million will go to a fund dedicated to adding more mental health professionals across the state. The National Alliance on Mental Illness fact sheet says 39,712 people in New Jersey live in communities that don’t have enough mental health professionals.

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