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Senator Vitale

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vitale and Senator Richard J. Codey that would eliminate the requirement for a healthcare facility to obtain a certificate of need from the Department of Health to develop in-patient treatment beds for patients who have both a psychiatric and a substance use disorder cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“As we continue to treat addiction in New Jersey, we know that substance use disorders often accompany psychiatric diagnoses. But our laws don’t sufficiently reflect this current reality, and must be updated in order to prevent patients from being turned away from necessary treatment,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Eliminating the certificate of need requirement for these dual diagnoses is common sense and will lead to fewer delays in accessing treatment for individuals who are battling with both, substance use and psychiatric disorders.”

Under the bill, S-2844, inpatient special psychiatric beds designated for services for patients with psychiatric/substance use disorder dual diagnoses would be added to the list of exemptions for the certificate of need (CN) requirement.

“The certificate of need requirement has created barriers to treatment for vulnerable individuals who need help in treating their substance use and psychiatric disorders,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “The update proposed under this bill is long past due and is necessary to address New Jersey’s leading public health crisis.”

Under current law, many facilities must obtain certificates of need from DOH before they are permitted to operate or commence treatment. Current regulations require DOH to publish an anticipated schedule for certificate of need calls for the coming two-year period. Hospitals can apply only after a call for applications.  Calls for psychiatric beds, including special psychiatric beds for treatment of co-occurring disorders, are scheduled every two years.  The most recent calls were issued for in-patient closed acute psychiatric beds in 2011 and 2008, none of which were specifically for beds for the treatment of individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.  Only one such call was ever issued, in 2000, which led to the creation of Princeton Behavioral Health facility.

The bill cleared the committee by a vote of 11-0. It next heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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