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Press Release:

December 22, 2008

222 South Warren Street
Trenton, NJ 08625
Contact: Pam Ronan
And SuzanneEsterman
(609) 292-3703

DHS Shares 2008 Accomplishments

TRENTON The Department of Human Services (DHS) through successful multi-agency collaborations and provider-partner achievements served the particular needs of more than 1.5 million New Jerseyans, who accessed DHS-funded social service programs during the year.

"The Governor recognizes that the state, national and global economy particularly affect our most vulnerable citizens and he has acted to meet the challenges," said Commissioner Velez. "In addition to the many accomplishments at DHS, the Governor has expedited efforts to protect those who are most in need by shoring up Food Banks, providing assistance to the unemployed, reducing energy costs and expanding legal aid to low-income families."

"We are grateful for the Governor's attention to the obstacles and challenges our state's most vulnerable are confronting," added Velez.

As a result of progressive and passionate advocacy from our Governor and state legislators, a bill was signed in July mandating health insurance for children under the age of 18 by July 2009. It is an initiative Governor Corzine is committed to fulfilling. NJ FamilyCare is a program that started in 1998 and has evolved into an invaluable safety-net of low-or no-cost health insurance options for children and their families. New Jersey offers the highest eligibility rates for children in the country. As Washington begins to consider Universal Health Care reforms, we can be proud in New Jersey for our work toward that goal.

Also in July, patients moved into the new Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, a state-of-the-art facility designed to provide improved, focused treatment to patients. The $200 million hospital replaced five aging treatment buildings and a 131-year-old administration building. It is a 450-bed facility in a single, self-contained building that includes a treatment mall with more than 21 rooms for various programs and a large auditorium. There are also on-site residential cottages that serve 60 additional patients transitioning to more independent, community-living. The new hospital utilizes the principles of wellness and recovery and serves as a model for other states as they explore ways to improve hospital-based mental health services.

Further improvements to the mental health system were the result of an administrative order, which was issued by Commissioner Velez to restructure Ancora Psychiatric Hospital's administration and redirect staff development and patient treatment toward a more therapeutic, wellness and recovery oriented system. This directive required ongoing analysis, efficiency and accountability of hospital operations. One result is that the Division of Mental Health Services (DMHS) now provides on its website, monthly statistical information about incidents in the five state-operated psychiatric hospitals, which is more comprehensive public information about state-operated psychiatric hospitals than any other state in the nation. Ancora Hospital also opened a self-help center, operated by mental health advocates, located on the hospital grounds.

As part of an effort to maximize federal funding and expand resources, DHS' Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) received approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to amend the state's Community Based Services Waiver. Through the amended waiver, DDD can now draw down federal monies for a portion of the cost of a number of services that currently are funded entirely by the state. Some of those services include community transition services, support coordination, assistive technology devices and non-medical transportation needs. The amendment is retroactive to January 1, 2008.

And in 2008, the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Commission (CICRFC) celebrated 20 years of helping New Jersey families with their children's uncovered medical expenses. CICRFC was the first of its kind in the nation, and serves as a model for the Massachusetts CICRFC and for the program in Connecticut which is still being constructed. Since 1988, the Commission has approved grants totaling over $115 million for more than 4,800 families. In this fiscal year alone, CICRFC has approved over $7.1 million for 309 families whose children were dealing with catastrophic illnesses.

DHS continues to maximize federal funding opportunities and state resources by working closely with stakeholders and advocates to fortify our core mission with effective and appropriate services and programs. The department's successes, both past and pending, are a direct result of the support from Governor Corzine, provider-partner agencies and those we serve.

Pam Ronan, MPA, DHS Public Information Officer

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