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President Biden’s State of the Union Address Focuses on the National Mental Health Crisis


March 2, 2022

Statement from Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO, NJAMHAA

On behalf of the members of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) and those they serve, I thank President Biden profusely for highlighting our nation's mental health crisis in such a historic manner during his State of the Union Address. I look forward to seeing his vision "to transform how mental health is understood, perceived, accessed, treated and integrated" become a reality, and to supporting the work needed for that to happen.

As the Administration has acknowledged, America's current unprecedented mental health crisis was exacerbated immensely by the many impacts of the pandemic. However, as evidenced by both a suicide epidemic and opioid epidemic prior to COVID, our collective response to mental illnesses and addictions has, to date, fallen far short of what has been needed for some time. The President's vision to address these crises is broad, addressing services from infancy, in schools, for the justice involved, with navigators and more. We are grateful that the many points of intersection to provide prevention and treatment have not gone unnoticed, and that this vision strives to meet everyone "where they are".

President Biden's plan includes so many laudable and greatly needed components. I am so very pleased to see sustainability and expansion of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, a program NJAMHAA has championed since its inception, included. Many other parts of Biden's vision are crucial and appropriate to realizing significant improvement in access to timely, appropriate care. Most notable are parity enforcement and multiple approaches to building a stable, qualified workforce, including the establishment of a national certification program for peer specialists. To be able to staff current and expanded programs, as well as new components of a 988 crisis response system, all of the President's plans must be implemented.

We are greatly encouraged by the increased attention to and investment in prevention, treatment and supports for mental health and substance use disorders that the President's strategy encompasses, and look forward with excitement to working to see this momentous and vital plan implemented.

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