BY TRISH GRABER
Last week in a discussion about gun control on the TODAY Show, Governor Chris Christie stated that mental health issues needed to be a focus of national discussion. Senator Richard J. Codey (D-Essex/Morris) today called on the governor to make mental health treatment a priority in this state by fully funding the Involuntary Outpatient Commitment law, which was signed into law back in 2009. However the administration since then has refused to fully fund and implement it.
“The governor told a national audience that we should be focusing on the treatment of mental health issues. Yet, here in New Jersey, he has refused to implement a program that will provide critical treatment to those suffering with mental illness and that has been proven successful elsewhere," says Codey.
He continues, “In fact, in New York the involuntary outpatient commitment program was shown to reduce homelessness, psychiatric hospitalizations, arrests and incarcerations. The fact that this administration has continued to drag its feet on implementation of our program is extremely concerning for the residents of this state who are struggling with mental illness, for their loved ones and for the public."
“If the governor really does believe that mental health is an issue of importance, as he has stated on numerous national news programs, he should put his money where his mouth is. He should fully fund the IOC program and move forward with full implementation.”
New Jersey’s IOC legislation was the result of a recommendation by a Task Force on Mental Health created by Codey during his tenure as governor. The law was established to provide for involuntary outpatient treatment for people who refuse mental health treatment despite their need for it, as long as they would not pose a threat to themselves or others in an outpatient setting. The program was to be phased in over a three-year period with the Commissioner of Human Services selecting seven counties in the State to implement IOC in the first year after the effective date, seven additional counties in the second year, and the remaining seven counties in the third year. The law was signed in August of 2009 and took effect one year after enactment. To date, the administration has failed to implement the program as required under the law.