Trenton – In a move to further assist New Jersey’s unhoused population, the Senate today advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Renee C. Burgess that would explicitly permit behavioral health care providers to operate within homeless shelters.
“The byproduct of homelessness affects every aspect of a person’s life, including their mental and emotional health. A greater emphasis needs to be placed on the provision of behavioral health services to homeless persons in order to create and maintain permanent solutions,” said Senator Burgess (D-Essex). “This legislation is a crucial first step to opening the door for service providers to work within shelters; but, it is even more critical because the bill provides homeless persons with the choice and access to efficient and holistic care.”
The bill, S-3261, would authorize behavioral health care providers to offer services in response to emergencies, or on a part-time or full-time basis, at a specified location within an emergency shelter for the homeless that is exclusively used by a behavioral health care provider.
Under the bill, “behavioral health care providers” include psychiatrists, psychiatric advanced practice nurse, psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, or any other licensed or authorized mental health, behavioral health, or substance use disorder treatment provider. The bill would also define “behavioral health care” as services, other than primary health care services, provided to a patient for the treatment of a mental illness, emotional disorder, or drug or alcohol use disorder.
The bill was released from the Senate with a vote of 36-0.