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As chair of the board for the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA), Susan Loughery hears firsthand the impacts the pandemic has on vulnerable populations in the state. 

And she also sees firsthand the economic challenges the pandemic is having on those mental health and social service community providers. 

During the recent New Jersey Business Coalition Town Hall, Loughery said it’s more important than ever for these critical organizations to maintain economic sustainability. 

“We need to be sustainable to meet that challenges that still lie ahead,” said Loughery, who is also the associate executive director for Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton. “We need to be sustainable for those who rely on us for services now, those who will need our services in the future, for those employees who tirelessly work for us and their dependents. 

In her presentation, Loughery cited data from the Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care that estimates that as many as 75,000 more people nationwide will die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide because of the pandemic 

“The growing epidemic of ‘deaths of despair’ is increasing due to the COVID pandemic,” Loughery said. “When you examine these projections in conjunction with New Jersey’s historical need, the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to New Jersey is staggering.”  

To support the demand for services, Loughery said mental health and addiction treatment providers need advance technology for telehealth and tele-mental health services.  

“We have seen the promise of technology-based services in recent months,” she said. “Providers anecdotally report reduced no-show rates and increased patient engagement, but a broader investment is needed for the infrastructure required to reach all of those in need.” 

Loughery added that for children and youth in need, the sustainability of school-based programs must be prioritized. 

“The school environment creates the foundation for successful outcomes for children and youth,” Loughery said. “Every child needs access to these services, and parents and guardians need confidence that these services will be available to their children, as they transition back to work.” 

The New Jersey Business Coalition’s “State of New Jersey Business” online town hall provided an opportunity for business owners and coalition members to discuss the current and future needs of the business community. More than 150 people attended the virtual event, including a dozen state legislators and administration officials who were also on the call.    

To listen to Loughery’s full presentation, click here or on the link below.