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. On January 23, 2019 Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez began the bill drafting work with the NJ Office of Legislative Services (OLS). NJPA is working on a Senate Sponsor for the bill.   We are focusing on including "may" language so that we are specifically clear that the required supervised practice may be completed, in whole or in part, during the predoctoral period.  

This proposed legislation will allow many early career psychologists (ECPs) who have already received over 3500 hours of supervised clinical training to become licensed sooner. ECPs in NJ struggle to find appropriate post-doctoral placements, supervision, and compensation, and this bill would support their ability to be reimbursed for any postdoctoral training they still may choose to pursue. This bill will help ECPs pay back their student loans, support themselves financially, and work more than the 20 hours a week permitted to permit holders. It will encourage them to remain in NJ, instead of moving to states with more flexible licensure requirements, like NY and PA, and increase the number of mental health providers in NJ who provide services to those who need them most.  

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.

Legislation that enhances enforcement and oversight of behavioral health parity laws This bill, supported by NJPA,  requires hospital, medical and health service corporations, commercial insurers, health maintenance organizations, health benefits plans issued pursuant to the New Jersey Individual Health Coverage and Small Employer Health Benefits Programs, the State Health Benefits Program, and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program, to provide coverage, for medically necessary behavioral health care services and to meet the requirements of the federal Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which prevents certain health insurers that provide mental health or substance use disorder benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical or surgical benefits, commonly referred to as mental health parity. On October 29, 2018, it was passed by the Assembly. On January 17, 2019, Bill S1339, passed the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill now goes to the full senate for a vote and then to the Governor for his signature.

Medicaid Update – Medicaid will reimburse for services provided by graduate students. 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 to help with this initiative. New Jersey Medicaid services announced that due to the growing need for mental health and substance use services in the state, it will reimburse for services provided by certain graduate students in mental and behavioral health training programs. For psychologists, services provided by graduate students enrolled in doctoral psychology programs, who are serving in graduate school approved externships or accredited internships, will be reimbursed by Medicaid when the graduate student is supervised by a licensed psychologist and the placement is in specific public mental and physical health settings. 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.