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Burgess Bill to Enhance Access to Mental Health Services within Homeless Shelters Advances

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Trenton – In a move to further assist New Jersey’s unhoused population, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee today advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Renee C. Burgess that would explicitly permit behavioral health care providers to operate within homeless shelters.


“The byproducts 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 mental 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 provide services within an emergency shelter for the homeless. Providers would be permitted to offer services in response to emergencies, on a part-time or full-time basis, within a temporary or permanent emergency shelter.


Under the bill, “behavioral health care providers” include psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, or any other licensed mental 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 committee with a vote of 8-0.