Karcher Announces Childhood Mental Health System Reforms

TRENTON – At a news conference today in the Statehouse, State Senator Ellen Karcher revealed a reform plan today for New Jersey’s childhood mental health system, which she said was “in need of major improvements.”

“We’ve really pushed the envelope in terms of our attention to the plight of the mentally ill, and that’s in no small part due to reforms instituted by Governor Codey,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, the Vice Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “However, there’s one area where we can do so much more, and that’s in the arena of childhood mental illness. By implementing these reforms, we can help our most vulnerable kids and adolescents overcome the specter of mental illness, through early diagnosis, and a coordinated model of support and treatment.”

The reform plan was the product of months of meetings with a working group including Assemblyman Bob Morgan, M.D.; Senator Joseph Vitale, the chair of the Senate Health Committee; and various mental health and pediatric health experts from around the State.

Among the reforms listed were training for pediatricians and family physicians to recognize early symptoms of mental illness and refer patients for mental health treatment; reorganizing the State’s Children’s Cabinet and other child health and welfare agencies to include greater focus and expertise on children’s mental health; coordinating and fostering greater communication between agencies and professionals currently responsible for taking a leading role in promoting mental health care for children; expanding the resources available to treat children with mental illness; and bringing insurance providers and others to the table as partners, to ensure that all children have access to high-quality mental health care.

“Our working group really put their time, effort and expertise into crafting a well-reasoned plan for reform that will make a serious difference,” said Senator Karcher. “I would like to especially thank Assemblyman Morgan, who kept us on track and pushed us in the right direction for reform. With this plan, we will be able to drastically improve the level of care we provide to kids suffering from mental illness, and have an impact on the success of the entire mental health system in the Garden State.”