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An Overview of Mental Health in New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick, a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, is part of the New York metro area and the home of famed Rutgers University. New Brunswick hosted America’s first college football game in 1869 when Rutgers played Princeton.
New Brunswick is better than most cities at engaging mental health resources; however, significant barriers remain. Citizens of the city of New Brunswick are suffering from a lack of integrated mental health care services and access.
Mental health workers noted that, while alcoholism remained level, abuse of other substances began to rise, beginning with cocaine, a burgeoning problem soon surpassed by opioid abuse. Intervention tools created for treatment clinics stressed teaching staff how to administer Narcan, a medication that reverses opioid effects and can often prevent an overdose. Teaching mental health workers to use Narcan, the antidote to opioid poisoning when administered in time, is as essential as CPR training.
The most recent New Jersey statistics on opioid use reveal that, while opioid prescriptions are decreasing, deaths contributed to general drug overdoses continue to rise. Half of all overdoses in the state were due to fentanyl availability and its analog substances. These synthetic drugs, developed to treat severe pain, are 100 times stronger than heroin or morphine.
A Crisis in Mental Health
Mental Health America releases an annual report ranking each state in the nation based on residents’ ability to access and receive treatment for mental health. For 2019, one of the most alarming aspects of the report is that severe depression in youth has increased across the board, and half of all teens age 11-17 said they think about harming themselves or committing suicide often throughout the week. Of youth with the severe cases of depression—1.7 million young people—were not receiving treatment for their desperate condition.
To put the mental health crisis in perspective, 43 million Americans have a mental health illness, yet almost 60 percent of adults have not received any help. 1 in 5 of all ages screened for mental health problems state they think about suicide every day. New Jersey suicides increased by 19.2 percent according to data from a recent study.
Environmental Concerns and Mental Health
The federal Superfund program prioritizes cleanups of hazardous chemically contaminated sites. New Jersey has more toxic sites than any other state in the nation. The former governor who wrote the Superfund Law said there are so many toxic waste sites in New Jersey, nobody lives very far from them. New Jersey has more places under the federal Superfund program which prioritizes cleanups of hazardous contaminated sites than any other state. There are 115 superfund sites listed at the federal level. In addition, New Jersey has its own list of toxic waste sites numbering in the thousands.
The city of New Brunswick alone has 92 contaminated waste sites. The Passaic River contains Agent Orange, linked to severe psychological and neurological illness.
Mental Health Services Reform
The New Jersey legislature has adopted a plan to consolidate behavioral and physical health programs. Their goal is to integrate healthcare services. The Department of Health now governs the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The process of combining forces will enable facilities to treat mental illness, physical illness and substance addiction administered in shared spaces. These measures will eliminate unnecessary barriers to psychological and physical health care.
The reformed Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services is one of the largest departments in the New Jersey State government, with 4,300 employees and an administrative budget of $1.6 billion. DMHAS runs four psychiatric hospitals, as well as an extensive network of community services across the state.
Patient-Centered System of Care
A health advisory committee proposes systematic patient care for prevention, treatment and health recovery. Proponents believe the integration of treatment will significantly advance health care opportunities for New Jersey. Not everyone agrees. Those advocating for the disabled and mentally ill warn that a shift to DMHAS would potentially cause problems. The impact on community providers could be harsh; they are already coping with changes in how the state reimburses them for Medicaid service.
Help is available for residents of New Brunswick
There is help for finding treatment of mental illness. E-Counseling’s directory can help New Brunswick residents locate the type and area of professional mental health treatment they desire for themselves or their loved ones. Hope is available for those suffering from mental illness.