New Jersey governor’s mental health initiative pitched nationwide

(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy made “Strengthening Youth Mental Health” his initiative as the chairman of the National Governors Association.

The issue that has received funding in New Jersey.

Murphy announced the initiative at a two-day roundtable event in Salt Lake City in October. Hospitalizations for mental health are up 61% for children under age 19, according to Clarify Health Institute. Suicide has risen to the second-leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Murphy’s office, through a spokesman, said the second-term Democrat wants governors nationwide on board to create a playbook.

In Salt Lake City, there meetings of governors, stakeholders and experts.

New Jersey included funds for youth mental health in the fiscal 2023 budget, including $12 million for the New Jersey Pediatric Psychiatric Collaborative, according to a release from state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth.

“Too many of our youth who struggle with mental illness feel they have nowhere to turn,” Gopal, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said in the release. “Opening the door to treat behavioral conditions such as depression and anxiety through more collaborative care can help us prevent teen suicide and help those in crisis receive treatment they need on a more persistent and cost-saving basis.”

Through the NJPPC program, children and adolescents will get access to behavioral health diagnosis and treatment resources, the release said. This includes pediatric telepsychiatry, using pediatricians’ offices as access points, and support services to the pediatrician, including direct consultations with child and adolescent psychiatrists.

Murphy told fellow governors and stakeholders at the event in Salt Lake City that New Jersey replaced a splintered support network with an integrated Children’s System of Care, according to published reports. A call to one number connects families to mental health and behavioral health care services, family support organizations, and mobile crisis response units. That integrated care comes at no cost to the family, no matter their income level or insurance status.

The support for youth mental health has been a long-standing interest of Murphy. In September 2021, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families said more than $100 million in annual funding was included in the last two budget cycles to modernize and rebalance the Children’s System of Care. The funding supports the need for a mental health care safety net for children and youth dealing with the emotional effects of the pandemic.

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