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The Human Services Equity Coalition is calling on New Jersey lawmakers to pass legislation that is critical to ensuring that community-based disability and behavioral health services programs remain sustainable in the face of inflation that has driven up costs.

Bill A-508/S-2668 would establish an annual cost-of-living adjustment in contracts for mental health services, substance use treatment or services to people with developmental disabilities. The legislation would apply to fee-for-service and Medicaid rates and contracts with the state Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (HMHAS).

Community social programs are under increasing duress, with a 31.4% vacancy rate among frontline clinical staff positions at community health clinics, the coalition said. In addition, 63% of intellectual and development disability providers are discontinuing programs.

Hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents and their families depend on these social service programs, but the uncertainty of year-to-year funding from the state leaves providers unable to plan, leading to service cuts, the coalition said.

The coalition of 10 social services agencies calls the legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-14) and Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14), a “common-sense bill with solid bipartisan support” that does not force the state to provide an annual cost-of-living adjustment. Rather, if enacted, the law would mean that the annual state budget process would begin with the cost-of-living adjustment already in place, but subject to change.

The Human Services Equity Coalition’s members include: The Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD); The Arc of New Jersey; Bancroft; Easterseals New Jersey; Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ); National Alliance on Mental Illness New Jersey (NAMI NJ); New Jersey Association of Community Providers (NJACP); New Jersey Association of Mental Health & Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA); New Jersey Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association; and the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey (SHANJ).