Multiple studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to help addicts regain control of their lives is through mental health and drug addiction programs. But according to the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia, a recent proposal by Governor Chris Christie will change the way these programs are run in New Jersey.
Christie’s proposal would shift mental health and drug addiction programs from the purview of the Department of Human Services to the Department of Health. And while this may not sound like a major shift, the change signals the way lawmakers now view these treatment programs. Here are some of the reasons that the proposal would make these programs more effective. (1)
Changes How Treatment Programs Are Perceived
The Department of Human Services of New Jersey has major divisions that include: (2)
Commission for the Blind & Visually Impaired
Division of Aging Services
Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Division of Developmental Disabilities
Division of Disability Services
Division of Family Development
Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services
With the exception of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, most of the other divisions are not dealing with crisis health issues that could determine whether a person lives or dies.
That doesn’t mean that these other divisions aren’t providing invaluable resources, it simply means that from a perception standpoint, mental health and addiction services do not have the proper health care urgency that is required to successfully treat addicts.
By shifting the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services to the Department of Health, mental health and drug addiction programs in New Jersey will be perceived as crisis management facilities within the healthcare system.
Burlington County Assemblyman Herb Conaway proposal echoed that sentiment when he commented on the governor’s proposal:
“There has been this division between what is regarded as a mental health and physical health, when in fact what we ought to be talking about is health for an individual and a population in a holistic way,” Conaway stated.
Eliminates Red Tape and Delays In Obtaining Treatment
People who need mental health and drug addiction treatment often have to wade through reams of red tape and paperwork in order to find a facility for urgent detox and long-term care.
This is due in part to the fact that the Department of Human Services does not treat those in need of addiction treatment with the urgency reserved for people in the Department of Health.
As a result, delays in patients getting addiction treatment are not viewed as detrimental as they would be if the mental health and drug addiction treatment were under the Department of Health umbrella.
The governor’s office believes there will be less bureaucracy and red tape after mental health and drug services shift to the Department of Health, providing a greater level of care to those most in need.
“We’re bringing overall the program staff, the senior management team, the subject matter experts,” stated New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett. “And because they’re all moving over, it will feel seamless to the outside world.”
Treats Mental Health and Drug Addiction As a Health Issue Instead of a Legal Issue
One of the problems with providing effective drug and mental health treatment services is that there is still a prevailing sentiment that these are legal or moral problems, instead of health problems that can be effectively treated.
This was the impetus for a recent proposal by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which recommended that substance abuse disorders be treated as a medical, not a legal issue. (3)
In fact, the UNODC found that substance use disorders are a disease, caused by developmental, biological, neuropsychological, and psychosocial factors, and thus should be addressed within a public health framework.
Furthermore, the UNODC recommended that healthcare systems take the lead in addressing drug abuse and addiction through the creation of evidence-based programs.
The link between these proposals and what is happening in New Jersey is clear. By shifting mental health and drug treatment services into the sphere of the Department of Health, the state is declaring that the health care system is the most appropriate place for addicts to recover in an environment where their addiction is treated medically as well as through proven psychological treatment.
Taking the First Step
Addiction is a disease and recognizing that disease is one of the first steps in a recovery program. The New Jersey proposal to shift mental health and drug programs to the Department of Health is welcome news for anyone suffering from an addiction.
Compassionate help is just one phone call away! Call our behavioral health professionals today at 1-844-643-3869 to speak to a substance abuse expert about you or a loved one’s treatment options. We understand that substance use disorders are a disease, caused by developmental, biological, neuropsychological, and psychosocial factors, and thus should be addressed within a public health framework. We can help!
Other Resources for you:
Learn more about Mental Health, Addiction, And Recovery in our previous blog post
Read our blog post: Substance Abuse Programs For Teens And Adults
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