Department of Human Services

Governor’s Budget Proposes $4M for Scholarships to Provide More Psychiatrists in New Jersey

April 30, 2021

                (TRENTON) - The Murphy Administration aims to expand access to in-demand psychiatric services by increasing the supply of trained professionals in the field.

The Governor’s proposed FY2022 budget calls for $4 million to fund 10 four-year psychiatric residencies. In exchange, the residency programs will ensure these physicians will have rotations in a range of publicly funded and community-based mental health settings during their residencies. 

The initiative will focus on the treatment of lower income individuals, especially those with serious mental illness and those co-occurring mental health substance use disorders.

“There has been a need for more psychiatrists for years, and now the need is even greater,” Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman said. “Professional help is often the key to recovery for people with emotional and behavioral health issues. We have to invest in the pipeline so the help is available for people who need it.”

Upon graduation, the residents will be guided towards work in Human Services-funded treatment programs. Although the state cannot require residents to commit to staying in New Jersey, such training programs are often successful in this regard. According to Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) Medical Director Robert Eilers, studies suggest that physicians are more likely to practice where they complete their residencies as opposed to where they attend medical school or where they lived prior to medical school.

Assistant Commissioner Valerie Mielke, who directs DMHAS, noted an increase in the need for emotional and behavioral health support since the pandemic.

“We can’t underestimate the emotional impact of COVID, especially on people who are already struggling,” Assistant Commissioner Mielke said. “The worry, uncertainty, and personal and financial losses can seem overwhelming.”

Assistant Commissioner Mielke said the pandemic has led to the expansion of telemedicine, which has enabled individuals to remain in touch with their mental health provider while enabling others to access mental health services for the first time.

From the beginning of the pandemic, Human Services through DMHAS and its partners have continued to launch and expand an array of services to help meet mental health challenges.

Through a partnership with DMHAS and the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, New Jersey last year launched a special free call line to help people cope with the stress, anxiety and emotional trauma related to COVID-19. 

The NJMentalHealthCares call line 1-866-202-HELP (4357) operates from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. by live trained specialists who can discuss the callers’ mental health status and refer them for professional treatment if needed. The line can also be reached by texting NJHOPE to 51684.

An American Sign Language videophone mental health help line for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is also available Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 973-870-0677 videophone through a partnership with ACCESS of St. Joseph’s Health.

To meet the unique needs of first responders and health care workers, DMHAS and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care this winter also launched two additional helplines staffed by crisis counselors

The HEAL NJ Healthcare Workers COVID Hope & Healing Helpline may be reached at 1-833-416-8773. It offers live support for doctors, nurses, hospital staff and all other health care personnel by trained crisis counselors and health care peers who staff the call line every day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. To learn more and register for online webinars and support groups, visit www.healhealthcareworkers.com.

Law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS professionals may call RISE: NJ First Responders COVID Hope & Healing Helpline at 1-833-237-4325, also from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.​ to speak with a fellow first responder who is a trained crisis counselor about the stressors they experience from the pandemic. They may learn more about support groups and other resources by visiting www.risefirstresponders.com.