The events, sponsored by separate organizations, the Northwest Essex Community Healthcare Network and the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI-NJ) each focused attention on the integration of mental health services in the federal and state health care reform systems. DHS leadership attended both events to discuss the economic and clinical benefits of integrating the delivery of behavioral health and primary medical care in New Jersey.
NAMI-NJ will recognize Commissioner Velez with the prestigious ‘Outstanding Public Service Award’ award this Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Monroe in Jamesburg during a conference themed “Shaping the Future of Mental Health Care”. The award acknowledges her accessibility and attentiveness to the mental health community on issues impacting agencies’ work and consumers’ recovery.
“The commissioner has been outstanding in her support of consumers and their families and in the advancement of the wellness and recovery movement,” noted Sylvia Axelrod, Executive Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-NJ), when she announced the selection.
“Under The Big Tent: Integrating Healthcare Now,” a conference held Wednesday by the Northwest Essex Community Healthcare Network, featured Deputy Commissioner Kevin Martone, who spoke about the need to integrate primary and behavioral healthcare services in order to improve the overall well-being of people with mental illness and addictions.
“New Jersey is emerging as a leader in its delivery of services to people with mental illness and substance use disorders,” said Martone, who also serves as president of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD). “People with mental illness die, on average, 25 years sooner than the general population, largely due to preventable physical diseases. New Jersey is making strides - with the changes under way - to improve the lifespan for this population by addressing their overall health.”
Other DHS officials also participating in the conferences and workshops include: Raquel Mazon Jeffers, Director of the Division of Addiction Services and Valerie Larosiliere, Acting Commissioner of the Division for Mental Health Services, who conducted a discussion about the recent merger of the two divisions; and Valerie Harr, Director, and Karen Brodsky of NJ Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services.