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Advocates Concerned About Proposed Transfer of Mental Health and Addiction Services

Advocates have some concerns about the Christie administration's proposal to transfer responsibility for mental health and addiction services from the New Jersey Department of Human Services to the Department of Health.

State Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett expects the move will mean a better coordinated system.

"What we currently have is a system where the patient has to navigate to the different providers. Now what we're doing is creating a system where the provider treats the whole person and has all of the resources that will be needed."

Debra Wentz is president and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies. She says the move makes sense philosophically, but questions the timing of the change as providers are transitioning to a fee for service system.

“Undertaking another major systemic change when there’s already such uncertainty and difficulty would be a significant disruption.”

Carolyn Beauchamp, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, worries the change could slow the delivery of services.

"This population has a lot of needs. You're not going to have as much attention there. It's going to be going toward the planning, how do we make this happen, and it seems to me doing this just before a new governor is chosen is particularly bad timing."

Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle chairs the Assembly’s Human Services Committee.

"I question the timing, I question the Intent, and it needs to be vetted."

The change will take effect in a couple of months unless lawmakers pass a resolution to block it.