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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 today.

“This bill will eliminate the requirement for a certificate of need that has constrained hospitals from treating patients suffering from both substance use and mental health disorders without delay,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “By doing so, we can allow more individuals with dual diagnoses to receive the necessary treatment to aid their efforts and support any prospects of success in battling addiction.”

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.

“Our goal is to remove barriers to treatment for vulnerable individuals so that they can have a fighting chance at beating addiction while also getting help for their mental health disorders,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “This update to our law is long overdue and necessary as we continue to improve access to treatment.”

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 Senate by a vote of 37-0. It next heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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