The voices of those living with mental illness are at last being heard. Allowing mental health stigma to stand in the way of basic human rights is no longer an acceptable option. Through hard fought legislation and dedicated advocacy, change is being enacted. Knowledge is power; people living with mental illness are being empowered by information, advice, and the support of individuals, groups, and decision makers. As a result, they are regaining control of their lives and demanding the respect and dignity to which they are fully entitled.

The rights of all citizens should be protected. This includes the rights of those living with mental illness, and their families. There are a myriad of human and civil rights issues that impact the mental health community including, but not limited to confidentiality, criminal justice, insurance parity, NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), seclusion and restraints, and recovery. The American Disabilities Act of 1990 was actually the first piece of legislation that included the issue of discrimination against people with psychological disabilities. In 2003, then Acting Governor Richard Codey's move to create his Task Force on Mental Health was a seminal moment for the hundreds of thousands of individuals living with mental illness in the state of New Jersey. Today, parity is considered to be one of the most significant and pivotal mental health issues being addressed by legislators and advocacy groups.

After years of unwavering dedication, progress is being made. However, it is crucial that focus on legislation and advocacy remains constant. According to the World Health Organization's Mental Health Policy and Service Guidance Package, "Mental health legislation is essential for complementing and reinforcing mental health policy and providing a legal framework for meeting its goals. Such legislation can protect human rights, enhance the quality of mental health services and promote the integration of persons with mental disorders into communities. These goals are an integral part of national mental health policies."

Mental illness is a public health and human rights issue. We stand at the threshold of a new era in mental health and hold in our hands the power to enact historic change. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and colleagues, and our communities to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and fully recognize the vital role of mental health in all our lives. 

Additional Resources

Treatment Laws and Legislation For Inpatient Care:
N.J. STAT. ANN. § 30:4-27.2(m). "In need of involuntary commitment": means that an adult who is mentally ill, whose mental illness causes the person to be dangerous to self or dangerous to others or property and who is unwilling to be admitted to a facility voluntarily for care, and who needs care at a short-term care, psychiatric facility or special psychiatric hospital because other services are not appropriate or available to meet the person's mental health care needs.

N.J. STAT. ANN. § 30:4-27.2(r). "Mental illness" means a current, substantial disturbance of thought, mood, perception or orientation which significantly impairs judgment, capacity to control behavior or capacity to recognize reality, but does not include simple alcohol intoxication, transitory reaction to drug ingestion, organic brain syndrome or developmental disability unless it results in the severity of impairment described herein. The term mental illness is not limited to "psychosis" or "active psychosis," but shall include all conditions that result in the severity of impairment described herein.

N.J. STAT. ANN. § 30:4-27.2(h). "Dangerous to self" means that by reason of mental illness the person has threatened or attempted suicide or serious bodily harm, or has behaved in such a manner as to indicate that the person is unable to satisfy his need for nourishment, essential medical care or shelter, so that it is probable that substantial bodily injury, serious physical debilitation or death will result within the reasonably foreseeable future; however, no person shall be deemed to be unable to satisfy his need for nourishment, essential medical care or shelter if he is able to satisfy such needs with the supervision and assistance of others who are willing and available.

N.J. STAT. ANN. § 30:4-27.2(i) "Dangerous to others or property" means that by reason of mental illness there is a substantial likelihood that the person will inflict serious bodily harm upon another person or cause serious property damage within the reasonably foreseeable future. This determination shall take into account a person's history, recent behavior and any recent act or threat.

* New Jersey does not have an assisted outpatient treatment law.

In the past, people with a mental illness could be hospitalized against their will for virtually no legitimate reason and for indefinite periods of time. Presently, the vast majority of people in psychiatric hospitals are there voluntarily and if not, are usually hospitalized due to a threat or attempt of violence upon themselves or others.

Article about parity laws

Contact Information for Legislators
GOVERNOR:   Chris Christie

Mailing Address:

PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Phone: (609) 292-6000
Fax: (609) 292-3454

Washington Office:
444 N. Capitol St., NW, Ste. 201
Washington 20001
Phone: (202) 638-0631
Fax: (202) 638-2296


SENATORS:

Cory Booker
Washington Office: 

Washington Office
141 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3224

Newark Office:
Gateway One
11-43 Raymond Plaza West
Suite 2300
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: (973) 639-8700

Camden Office:
Camden Office
One Port Center
2 Riverside Drive, Suite 505
Camden, NJ 08101
Phone: (856) 338-8922

Robert Menendez

Washington Office:
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3004
Phone: (202) 224-4744
Fax: (202) 228-2197

Main District Office:
1 Gateway Ctr., 11th Fl.
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: (973) 645-3030
Fax: (973) 645-0502

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

Frank LoBiondo
Jon Runyan
Christopher Smith
Scott Garrett
Frank Pallone
Leonard Lance
Bill Pascrell
Rodney Frelinghuysen
Rush Holt
Albio Sires
 

Informative web site about mental health laws, legislation, and resources

Parity information
The parity law for New Jersey requires that every individual and group hospital service corporation contract that provides hospital or medical expense benefits and is delivered, issued, executed, or renewed shall provide coverage for biologically based mental illness under the same terms and conditions as provided for any other sickness

Summary of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007

Written report of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007