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Substance abuse recovery and suicide prevention are focus of month’s activities

TRENTON – Reinforcing Governor Chris Christie’s commitment to behavioral health care, Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly today highlighted the department’s efforts to promote National Substance Abuse Recovery Month and World Suicide Prevention Awareness Week in September.

“Governor Christie continues to make an unprecedented investment in behavioral health programs and services because he realizes the inextricable link between mental illness and addiction, as well as the importance of integrating behavioral health services with primary health care,” Connolly said.  “Under his leadership, the state now: has a Good Samaritan Law; has created a New Jersey-based suicide hotline; has initiated a one-stop addiction treatment referral hotline; and has expanded many services aimed at saving lives and promoting sustained recovery.”

To kick off National Substance Abuse Recovery Month, DHS is launching a multi-media  “Doors to Recovery” campaign, featuring an interactive graphic with pop-up text explaining a variety of state-funded treatment options and active links to access more information. The department also will post a video each week through its social media pages, featuring addiction experts discussing the disease and treatment models, and consumers’ powerful personal recovery stories.

To commemorate World Suicide Prevention Week, from September 4-10, the DHS’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services is sponsoring its first Suicide Prevention Walk for state workers and the general public on September 8 at 9 a.m.  Participants will wear the commemorative colors of purple or turquoise and walk from the War Memorial to the State House steps to raise awareness.

That same day, the Division also is sponsoring a suicide prevention conference during which officials, scholars, people who have attempted suicide, survivors of suicide, artists and mental health providers will discuss suicide and the treatment available to prevent it.

On September 9, Acting Commissioner Connolly will participate in the World Suicide Prevention Day Summit at the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC) in Piscataway.

UBHC has been an integral partner with DHS and other state agencies, serving as a vital hub in the development and delivery of behavioral health services, operating several hotlines, including: the Interim Management Entity substance use disorder treatment referral and hotline for Medicaid and uninsured callers 1-844-276-2777; the NJ Hopeline (855-654-6735) a suicide prevention hotline on which callers can speak with state-based counselors, and  crisis hotlines Cop2Cop and Vet2Vet.

Since Governor Christie launched the NJ Hopeline in May 2013, the center has received about 2,000 calls per month. The IME has fielded more than 62,000 calls since it was launched in July 2015; and between May 2016 and August 2016, an estimated 11,000 Medicaid members have received a clinical authorization for addiction treatment.

Acting Commissioner Connolly also noted that the Governor has supported the development of Behavioral Health Homes, which integrate primary healthcare services for people with mental illnesses and substance use disorder. The state’s current budget provides funding to add six more. He also has appointed task forces to develop suicide prevention plans for children and adults.

Other recovery month activities the department will participate in include: the NJ Leadership Substance Abuse Exposed Infant in Death symposium on September 8 and the 4th Annual Patient-Centered Summit on the Opioid Epidemic on September 27. Assistant Commissioner Valerie Mielke will serve as a panelist for the National Meeting on Opioid Use, Abuse and Overdose in Women conference in Washington, D.C.

In addition, the department’s Disaster and Terrorism Branch will hold three trainings throughout the state to prepare law enforcement and local government agencies for the provision of behavioral health treatment services during disasters.

DHS also continues to fund Narcan training throughout the state for family members and friends of individuals with addiction disorders to learn how to administer the opioid antidote to reverse the effects of an overdose.

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