Trenton- Senate Health Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vitale was honored with the 2017 legislative mental health champion award by the Mental Health America (MHA) for his work on legislation and other initiatives to improve mental health programs and services in New Jersey. The non-profit organization, Mental Health America, presented Senator Vitale with its leadership award this week during MHA’s Regional Policy Council Legislator Award Breakfast in Boston coinciding with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) Legislative Summit.
“I am honored to receive this award from an organization that is a partner in the effort to improve access to mental healthcare treatment for residents in our state and across the nation,” said Senator Vitale. “We have made important strides in strengthening our laws and have worked aggressively to combat the opioid epidemic, but there is more to do. I am committed to continuing the fight to making sure we have laws in place to protect those seeking these services and a strong system that meets the needs of New Jersey’s families.”
The award was presented by Carolyn Beauchamp and Barbara Johnston of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, who recognized Senator Vitale’s work in spearheading the legislative initiative that started the targeted fight against opioids and the heroin epidemic in New Jersey. Senator Vitale’s sponsorship of the (S-3) was among the initiatives cited. Signed in March by Governor Christie the law aims to comprehensively combat the addiction crisis by addressing insurance coverage for inpatient and outpatient substance use disorder treatment, prescription limits for the management and treatment of acute pain, and continuing professional education for prescribers and health care professionals.
“We are so thankful for Senator Vitale’s sustained leadership in Trenton and his advocacy on behalf of people and families who struggle with mental health and substance abuse disorders,” said Barbara Johnston of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey. “With his support, we continue to make great progress in strengthening the system of care that serves our residents. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure access to quality behavioral healthcare so individuals can achieve their full potential, free from stigma and other barriers to care and recovery.”
Mental Health America (MHA) – founded in 1909 – is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. One of MHA’s signature programs is its Regional Policy Council. The Regional Policy Council (RPC) cultivates a constructive partnership with its affiliate field, state policy leaders, and other mental health stakeholders working together to initiate, advocate for, and implement federal and state policies that positively affect people living with mental health and substance use conditions. It is led by six national policy experts from the MHA affiliate field.