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New Jersey Mental Health Services Guide

Many people don't realize that publicly-funded mental health services are available in their state. People looking for free or low-cost counseling often think their only options are counselors in private practice and don't know that publicly-funded providers in their communities may also offer counseling services. 

 

While state-based programs are not for everyone, they are often a great place to start for people who face geographic or financial barriers to therapy. Intake specialists at community mental health programs can help people learn whether they qualify for state-funded services and can refer people who don't qualify to other low-cost programs that may be able to meet their needs.

 


 

When Should You Go to a State Mental Health Program?

Few mental health providers outside of those in the public sector are able to immediately serve people in crisis. This usually makes public mental health services the best option for anyone who is having a mental health crisis and needs help right away. The people who answer crisis lines offer caring attention and support as they help people determine the best response to a crisis, whether it's inpatient treatment or an appointment with a counselor.


In most cases, community mental health programs serve as alternative providers for people who lack the means to access services in the private sector. They often prioritize people with severe mental illness that puts them at risk of hospitalization. However, New Jersey's system includes a range of independent providers that serve people with a wide range of mental health needs. The Central NJMentalHealthCares line is a great resource for people who want information about local mental health services who are not in crisis. If you're not finding what you need through the public mental health system in New Jersey, you can search for free or low-cost counselors on OpenCounseling.com or try affordable online counseling with BetterHelp (a  sponsor of OpenCounseling).


Many people in New Jersey don't get the mental health care they need. Only 40 percent of people in New Jersey with mental health conditions get treatment for them. Despite its dedicated funding for mental health programs, Mental Health America ranks New Jersey 27 out of 51 states (including the District of Columbia) for access to mental health care. Because New Jersey is the most densely populated state in America, even areas with programs that serve many people often have an equal or greater number of people who don't get services. You don't have to be one of them—consider reaching out to a local or statewide information or crisis line to learn how to get the care you need.

 

Who Is Eligible for Public Mental Health Services in New Jersey?

Because New Jersey contracts with independent agencies to provide state-funded mental health services, there are no statewide clinical eligibility criteria for mental health services. Instead, the state only assesses whether people are eligible for state funding to pay for the care they receive. 


Eligibility for state funding is determined based on a person's income and the severity of their mental illness. When demand is high, counties that directly provide public mental health services may restrict services to people whose mental health conditions result in functional impairments and put them at risk of hospitalization.


People who don't qualify for state funding in New Jersey can often still receive services from publicly-funded providers. Independent programs that contract with the state can set their own clinical eligibility requirements and give people different payment options. Many contracted providers accept both public and private insurance and offer sliding scale fee options to people without insurance regardless of whether they qualify for public financial assistance.

 

How Can You Find Out More About Local Programs in New Jersey?

Like many other states, New Jersey operates local crisis lines for each of its counties. The people who answer these crisis lines can guide people through mental health crises, inform them about local services, make referrals, and sometimes even set up appointments. Unlike other states, New Jersey also operates a statewide mental health information line that people can call to get the same information even when they're not in crisis. 


New Jersey MentalHealthCares is New Jersey's "behavioral health information and referral service" and is a great place to call to learn about local options for mental health care. To reach NJMentalHealthCares, call (866) 202-4357 between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM EST. On hours the line is not staffed, you can leave a message for someone to return your call the next business day. You can also visit  their webpage for service directories or to reach them by e-mail.


The following list includes contact information for each county's mental health board, crisis screening centers, access centers that provide a single point of entry for multiple services, and outpatient programs that provide counseling for adult clients. You can call these programs directly to find out whether affordable counseling is available and whether you qualify. 


If you're looking for other kinds of mental health services or services for children or youth, many counties offer extensive provider lists on their websites that include service types not listed here. You can also  review this list of publicly-funded programs or call NJMentalHealthCares with specific inquiries. Many providers serve several counties, so if you're interested in a specific provider, you should call and ask if you're eligible based on where you live.

 

New Jersey's Mental Health Clinics and Access Numbers

Atlantic County


Bergen County


Burlington County

  • Burlington County Behavioral Health Services
    • Burlington County Mental Health Board: (609) 265-5383
    • Burlington County Human Services: (609) 265-5536
  • Primary Screening Center for Burlington County:
  • Contracted Outpatient Providers:
  • Legacy Treatment Services: (800) 433-7365
    • (609) 267-5656 (Drenk Center, Hainesport)
    • (609) 267-1550 (Children's Home Campus, Mount Holly)
    • (609) 267-4001 (Generations Family Success Center, Mount Holly)
    • (609) 261-7315 (The Legacy Foundation, Hainesport)
    • (856) 642-9090 (CTS Offices, Moorestown)
    • (800) 433-7365 (Westampton Office, Mount Holly)
  • Oaks Integrated Care: (800) 963-3377
    • (609) 261-4970 (Mount Holly)
    • (609) 265-0245 (Lumberton)
    • (609) 953-5714 (Medford)
    • (856) 778-8231 (Moorestown)
  • Princeton House (Moorestown): (888) 437-1610 or (856) 779-2300


Camden County


Cape May County


Cumberland County


Essex County


Gloucester County


Hudson County


Hunterdon County


Mercer County


Middlesex County


Monmouth County


Morris County


Ocean County


Passaic County


Salem County


Somerset County


Sussex County


Union County


Warren County


Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are another option for public mental health care in New Jersey. These federally-funded programs provide medical and mental health services to people in underserved communities. Their purpose is to provide high-quality coordinated care to people with complex needs and to link behavioral healthcare with primary medical care. Each FQHC accepts Medicaid and Medicare and offers sliding scale fees to people without insurance. You can search for FQHCs using the online search tool on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. 

 

How Does New Jersey's Public Mental Health System Work?

In the 1960s, Americans started thinking differently about how to treat mental health conditions. New laws required state and local governments to establish community mental health programs as alternatives to institutionalization for people with serious mental illness. Many states' public mental health programs trace their origins back to this period.


New Jersey was ahead of the curve. Only a handful of states enacted community mental health laws before Congress passed the federal Community Mental Health Act in 1963. After New York became the first state to pass a community mental health law in 1954, New Jersey passed its own law in 1957. 


New Jersey's law established local government departments called county mental health boards. Their purpose is to direct program development, ensure access to mental health care for county residents, and provide funding so people with serious mental illness have the support they need to live outside of institutions. These county mental health boards are not required to provide services directly and can contract with local agencies instead.

From the beginning, New Jersey's public health system has been made up of county boards that govern local human services. Mental health boards supervise local agencies that provide mental health services. Some counties directly provide services, though most do not. The main purpose of county mental health boards is to provide funding so that people can access mental health services in their local communities regardless of their ability to pay.


New Jersey has traditionally funded community mental health programs through grants and contracts. Recent efforts to move the state into a fee-for-service system have met with some controversy, though New Jersey continues to prioritize mental health spending and fund its mental health programs more consistently than many other states. New Jersey was one of only 12 states that increased their mental health budgets every year from 2013 to 2015.


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