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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 received final legislative approval today in the Assembly.

“The certificate of need requirement fails to recognize that addiction and mental health disorders often occur in tandem and has caused unnecessary delays in accessing treatment for patients who are suffering from both,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “We must make this necessary update to our existing law to allow for hospitals to commence treatment immediately for those who need it.”

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.

“If we are going to fight this opioid epidemic and have any chance of winning, we have to make sure that everyone involved in the treatment of those who are suffering from substance use and mental health disorders is equipped with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “One way is lifting the certificate of need requirement for hospitals to improve access to treatment for patients with both disorders, and that’s what this bill does.”

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 and the Assembly by a vote of 74-0. It next heads to the Governor for consideration.

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