Professional Advocacy Corner 

NJPA is committed to strengthening our political outreach and advocating for the interests of NJ psychologists and mental health issues that are important to the public. Over the years, our advocacy has taken many forms. Through our Committee on Legislative Affairs (COLA), Committee on Regulatory Affairs (CORA), and our Government Affairs Agent (GAA), NJPA is instrumental in maintaining standards of psychology practice in NJ, protecting patients’ rights, and supporting public policy. We monitor state rules and laws that regulate the profession, and maintain a liaison with the NJ Board of Psychological Examiners to stay informed about any changes that may affect our members. As an affiliate of APA, NJPA is involved in federal advocacy initiatives and regularly lobbies for federal issues that affect Psychology. Below is an update of our current legislative initiatives.

NJ Licensing Act Legislation – NJPA will propose amendments to the NJ Licensing Act to follow the APA Model Licensing Act. NJPA believes that our state must re-examine the licensing requirements for psychologists due to the substantial increase in the number of supervised hours most doctoral students must accumulate during their doctoral studies compared to what was required in such programs in the past. Psychology doctoral graduates are still required to complete half of the required hours after graduation even though most students have completed the total number of required hours (or even more) prior to graduation. APA pointed out that this results in delayed licensing for qualified graduates, thereby negatively affecting access to mental healthcare. NJPA President, Dr. Stephanie Coyne, was quoted in a 2018 article, Dearth of In-Network Psychiatrists Highlights NJ's Mental Health Gaps: Delaying licensing for qualified graduates thereby negatively affects access to mental health care. She added. “In addition, access is negatively impacted because of the ‘brain drain’ that results when graduates decide to forego licensing in our state and choose instead to get licensed in other nearby states where the total number of their supervised hours enables them to be licensed more quickly.”

Maiden Names Legislation - Modify New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ stated policy on the use of legal names on the New Jersey psychologist license and other professional identification materials to allow for use of legal and maiden names for professional practice. As we understand the division’s current policy, a licensed professional is required to use his or her legal name when applying for a professional license and is only permitted to practice under his or her legal name. The division created this policy in order to protect the public by ensuring that a licensee is not engaging in inappropriate behavior under a different name. The division stated that the reasoning behind the requirement to use the legal name on the license is because the division must conduct a criminal background check on an applicant. This policy affects a large percentage of female professionals. Women are most likely the individuals who would be changing their name when they marry and choose to take their spouse’s last name. Prior to marrying, a woman could be in professional practice for a number of years, and then upon taking her husband’s last name, be forced to start over in her professional life due to having a new last name.

Network Adequacy Legislation – Research is needed to examine the adequacy of the numbers of mental healthcare providers in insurance company networks, as well as the relationship of in-network reimbursements for psychologists in relation to other types of healthcare providers.

Medically Necessary Behavioral Health Care Services A-2031, requires plans to provide coverage for medically necessary behavioral health care services and to meet the requirements of a 2008 federal law. It prevents certain health insurers, that provide mental or substance use disorder benefits, from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on such benefits than on medical or surgical benefits, commonly referred to as mental health parity. This bill amends several NJ statutes that require health insurance plans to treat biologically based mental illnesses the same as any other sickness under their health insurance coverage. The intent of the legislation is to expand coverage for behavioral health care services and ensure that residents receive the best care without judgement or insensitivity to their situations. The bill would expand health coverage to include "behavioral health care services," that is defined in the legislation as procedures or services rendered by a health care provider or health care facility for the treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, or drug or alcohol abuse, and autism. In addition, the bill specifies that a benefit determination for treatment of a substance use disorder, including but not limited to prior approval and medical necessity determinations, must be the most recent Treatment Criteria for Addictive, Substance-related, and Co-Occurring Conditions established by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. No additional criteria may be used during utilization review or benefit determination for treatment of substance use disorders. It also prohibits a carrier that provides coverage for prescription drugs from excluding coverage for any FDA-approved forms of medication assisted treatment prescribed for alcohol dependence or opioid dependence under the same American Society of Addiction Medicine guidelines. Other bill highlights includes requiring carriers to submit an annual report containing certain information regarding compliance with the bill's provisions to the Department of Banking and Insurance on or before March 1.

Medicaid Update – NJPA had a face-to-face meeting with the New Jersey Director of Medicaid Services and several staff members, including the Director of Behavioral Health Services. After this meeting, NJPA was in touch with the Director of Behavioral Health Services over the course of this past year discussing this issue repeatedly and assisting with the text of the newsletter. Click here to read all about it

Duty to Warn Amended Law – The New Jersey Psychological Association is reaching out to the NJ Attorney General in response to P.L. 2018, CHAPTER 34, approved June 13, 2018 Assembly, No. 1181 (First Reprint). NJPA closely followed the bill development over the years and provided the bill sponsors with suggested amendments to ensure that the spirit of the bill, to protect the public, was preserved while allowing for the most efficient and effective way to implement an additional public safety provision related to mental health providers’ duty to warn. Our suggested amendments were focused on ensuring that the motivation of the public to seek mental health care was not stifled or deterred in any way by a fear that sensitive information would be disclosed to police departments where patients live. We also wanted to encourage and allow for mental health providers to provide services without concern that patients might be less than forthcoming during sessions. In addition, we wanted to address the best manner in which mental health providers communicate with law enforcement and under what circumstances. The Attorney General is considering clarifications for this new amendment, with NJPA’s input.

Parity Coalitions - NJPA will be reviewing options to become involved in parity efforts, potentially by joining a parity coalition.

In addition to new bills that come through the NJ legislature that may impact psychologists or psychology, NJPA is also following Governor Murphy’s efforts related to graduate student loans, funding for opioid treatment, and efforts to legalize marijuana in NJ. NJPA is also researching the NY mandatory mental health education law to see if we might pursue something similar in NJ.