TUESDAY NOVEMBER 24, 2009
Thanks to every member of the Senate Health Committee that voted unanimous approval of a package of bills that will help our state’s mentally ill population. This legislation will go a long way toward addressing the plight of behavioral health patients who often wait countless hours, sometimes days, in hospital Emergency Departments awaiting transfer to an appropriate behavioral health setting.
I testified before Committee members on the need for these bills, S-2444, S-2445 and S-2446, sponsored by Sen. Richard Codey. NJHA has surveyed hospitals across the state and has found that we have patients – children and adults alike – sometimes waiting in the ED for up to five days awaiting placement into appropriate levels of behavioral care.
Thank you to Committee Chairman Joe Vitale (D), Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), Sen. Diane Allen (R), Sen. Bill Baroni (R), Sen. Bob Gordon (D), Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R), Sen. Dana Redd (D), Sen. Ron Rice (D), Sen. Bob Singer (R) and Sen. Jim Whelan (D) for their support. Thanks also to all of those in the provider community who provided testimony in support of these important bills, including South Jersey Healthcare, Hunterdon Healthcare System, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, SomersetMedicalCenter, KimballMedicalCenter and Saint Peter’s UniversityHospital.
The behavioral health patient population needs a wide range of programs to meet their needs. Hospital emergency rooms are not the best place for this fragile population. They are busy, intense places. These bills supported by NJHA are not asking for additional resources. Instead we are asking the state to improve its coordinated efforts to help hospitals locate placements for behavioral health patients, streamline processes to move patients more quickly to an appropriate setting and give providers a snapshot of what behavioral health services are currently available across the state. These are fundamental measures that the state must take, or our fragile behavioral health population will continue to wait – and that isn’t right.
These measures have already passed in the Assembly and now with the vote of the Senate Health Committee, they await a vote by the full Senate before reaching the Governor’s desk. Call your local Senator and urge that they ask Senate President Codey to post these bills during the lame duck session of the legislature!