A top health care official on Wednesday called on the state’s largest health insurer to start offering insurance to people with mental illness and to make its mental health programs more accessible to more people.
The announcement came after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who’s seeking re-election, proposed a $2 billion increase in the state health care spending this year.
Christie said he wants to address the challenges of people with serious mental health needs by creating a more comprehensive and affordable health care package.
“It’s really important for us to do everything we can to help our state’s citizens,” he said in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday.
“And it’s really, really important to have a robust and comprehensive mental health care plan.
That is the first thing that comes to mind.
And I think we have the tools to do that.”
The Christie administration announced Wednesday that it will spend $1 billion over the next two years on mental health and addiction prevention and treatment.
“We are committed to providing health care and mental health services that are accessible to New Jerseyans, and to those with mental health challenges, regardless of their background,” Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Weinstein said in a statement.
“We will continue to expand our capacity to serve our patients and improve care, while investing in new treatments, technology, and innovative practices.”
The move is part of an effort to expand access to mental health, especially in communities that have a disproportionate share of people living with mental illnesses.
The Christie health proposal includes $3.5 billion for the state and $1.9 billion for private insurance carriers.
It would also expand the use of Medicaid, expand access for high-risk populations and provide $600 million in additional funding for mental health centers.
It also would expand mental health treatment and support services and improve the quality of care for people living in mental health facilities.
More than 3,000 people have received mental health help in New Jersey, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
In fiscal year 2019, about 5,000 of those patients were receiving mental health assistance, according the state.
The governor also proposed raising the income threshold for state income tax from $60,000 to $75,000, making the income tax effective for individuals and couples earning more than $75 of $120,000.