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Demands for mental health services, along with the inappropriate use of pharmaceutical and street substances, have been growing at an alarming rate. The recent attention to mental health and suicide is long overdue. Policy makers, state and federal lawmakers, community and social service agencies and healthcare providers must work together to define the problem and partner to implement creative solutions to mitigate it. This study is a close evaluation of hospital emergency department data that aids in painting a picture of the scope of this issue in New Jersey. It also begins to quantify problematic areas of the state previously thought to be less impacted than the urban and shoreline epicenters of this health crisis.

New Jersey, like most states across the nation, is faced with limited resources to ensure that services are situated in appropriate areas and that funding is prioritized to ensure timely access to care. Calls for sweeping reforms have been stymied by contradictory and competing policy and payment structures, and often times attention and focus come only during high-profile dire events, placing equally important issues in the queue for attention, priority and funding.

NJHA believes that to achieve meaningful reform, analytics need to be augmented from static volume reporting and also incorporate metrics that reflect pace-of-change over time. This study supports the notion that a broader view is needed beyond the traditional high volume areas, examining areas at high risk for a growing crisis. Armed with this data, stakeholders can work together on building proactive interventions to safeguard the community rather than reacting in times of crisis.

In an effort to sustain the focus on this issue, NJHA’s Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation (CHART) has performed an in-depth evaluation of mental health claims based on Uniform Bill data, with a dual goal of determining the geographic magnitude of the crisis in New Jersey, while at the same time identifying areas where strategic placement of services may lead to improved care coordination.

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