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Posted by on in OpEd

Huffington Post

Dr. Munr Kazmir 

Doctor, businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist

As a New Jersey resident, that’s why I’m proud to say I truly commend the job Eric Jackson is doing as Mayor in Trenton, NJ.

I’ve known Mayor Jackson for a while and have always found him to be a strong thinker and somebody who knows how to get things done. Even though he is a Democrat, Jackson has worked with Republican Governor Chris Christie if he felt the effort suited his constituents, political parties be damned.

As Vice President of the American Jewish Congress, I have worked with him on reaching out to Israeli businesses as far as getting them to consider doing business in Trenton. He’s able and willing to work with anybody he needs to in order to yield positive results for the people in his city.

That is why I was pleased to see that the Department of Housing and Urban Development granted Trenton $3.8 million to find permanent housing for the homeless.

Trenton has vowed to use that money to fund emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing, and rental assistance in conjunction with 15 non-profits.

This effort really warms my heart, because quite frankly, for all the talk of who is a bigger victim than who in this country, homeless people are truly, visibly suffering and are the most venerable among us. They need real, tangible help and I am very glad that such a competent and caring leader is out on the front lines doing everything he can to make sure that they get it.

 

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Legislating Against Blacklisting to Help Tenants Find Better Housing

Landlords deny that it’s done, but tenants who withhold rent to protest unhealthy living conditions often can’t find another place to live

Blacklist building
The Pueblo City building that Yanira Cortes says is infested with rats and other vermin.

Yanira Cortes hits play and her phone displays a video of the wood-floored hallway of her Newark apartment. After a few seconds, a large brown rat scurries across the floor from one corner of the hall into an open doorway.

“My 9-year old daughter shot that at 3:45 in the morning,” says Cortes, a mother of four kids who range in age from 2 to 12. “She’s up because she’s afraid to sleep with the rats … I check them every morning for rat bites.”

This is just one problem she has faced in her federally subsidized two-bedroom apartment in the Pueblo City building; there have been problems with the heat and a leaky bathroom ceiling that brought mold. While moving would be difficult financially, Cortes has tried to secure another rental, only to fail the background check.

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By Claude Brodesser-Akner | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

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By Andrew Schmertz
Correspondent

While the state’s reported homeless population continues a years-long decline, the people on the ground say there is no victory to declare.

The executive director of the Isaiah House shelter in East Orange notes that she now sees large amounts of families coming in for help.

“For us we’re seeing a lot of families that are nontraditional, meaning not just mom and dad. It’s been that people are trying to come together to be able to make ends meet. So for instance in our shelter we may get an aunt with the mom and the kids,” said Executive Director of Isaiah House Zammeah Bivins-Gibson.

The survey was conducted by Monarch Housing Associates, a nonprofit group that monitors homelessness. The one day snapshot is taken each year in January.

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By Debra L. Wentz

The state Legislature will soon release its budget for fiscal year 2018.  It is imperative that it include safety net funding for community-based providers as their mental health services are transitioned to a fee-for-service reimbursement system.

This funding is critical to ensuring that tens of thousands of New Jerseyans do not lose access to services that will leave them at risk of health complications requiring much more costly treatment in emergency departments and hospital inpatient units.

Keeping providers fiscally viable so they can maintain patient access to care, as well as continuity and quality of care, will not only save thousands of lives, but will also save the state millions of dollars.

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Who trusts Christie not to scrimp on the mentally ill?

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

The Christie administration has been trying to cut costs in the treatment of people with serious mental illnesses, and while our state could certainly use the savings, the risk is obvious. We need to make sure this doesn't hurt actual care.
 
The patients we're talking about include a man who drove his car into a building and attempted suicide-by-cop during a spell of psychosis, and another who ended up fatally shooting his wife in front of their 12-year-old kid, then himself.
 
Desperate people, who can sometimes become dangerous if they lapse on their medication. At the very least, they will end up in our emergency rooms, the most expensive place to get care.

Now the state is seeking to cut funding to the struggling community mental health centers that are their last resort, the only place many can afford to go. Like CarePlus in Bergen County, which advertises on the George Washington Bridge to save would-be jumpers.
 
The goal is to pay for each service rendered, rather than a guaranteed lump payment - what's known as fee-for-service. By reimbursing clinics for each therapy session after it's provided, and paying only for the work that they do, the state should see savings. It all sounds reasonable.
 
Problem is, many of the state's reimbursements are still too low, and centers say they can't absorb the cuts without slashing crucial care. They no longer have enough financial cushion to pay for overhead costs, like salaries for psychiatrists whose patients don't always show up.
 
Some are already laying off staff. When Michigan made this change between 2014 and 2016, about 10,000 people lost services. It's not clear what, if anything, Christie officials are doing to prevent the same from happening here.

The governor signed a bill earlier this year that requires independent monitoring of this reform, but we won't see those results for quite a while. In the meantime, Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen) is proposing a measure that would set aside $90 million to reimburse providers who fall short in the first year of the new system.
 
That's a prudent move, because this is the kind of spending cut that could backfire if not done carefully. And in these cases, we can't afford error.

Consider the man who attempted suicide-by-cop. He's now back on his meds, at home and doing well. But that depended on care that extended beyond a billable hour; helping him navigate the court system and find a job, for instance.
 
If he stops showing up for his appointments, it will take more outreach, which centers say they can no longer afford.

"The state is characterizing this as, 'We don't want to pay for somebody who doesn't show up for a visit.' But we're set up to go find someone when they don't show up - that's the whole purpose of the community health center," said Joe Masciandaro, the head of CarePlus.
 
And when a troubled guy like that goes missing, we want them to have every incentive to find him.

 

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Trump's Budget Cuts Deeply into Medicaid and Anti-Poverty Efforts

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to unveil on Tuesday a $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 that would cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation’s priorities.

The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America first” message that powered Mr. Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.  

The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security's retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.

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National Council Joins Others in Urging State Substance Abuse Agencies to Support Recovery Housing

May 18, 2017

The National Council, alongside the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) and the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR), urged State Substance Abuse (SSA) directors to support recovery housing as part of their Opioid State Targeted Response (STR) program in a letter last week. Recovery residences are safe, healthy, and substance-free living environments that support individuals in recovery from addiction. Recognizing that recovery housing is an essential resource for helping individuals achieve long-term recovery, the National Council calls upon SSAs to invest Opioid STR funding in recovery housing and support recovery houses that uphold national recovery housing quality standards.

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In a May 9, 2017 New York Times article, “How Home-ownership Became the Engine of American Inequality,” Matthew Desmond examines the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID), its benefits to wealthy and upper middle-class homeowners and the plight of low income renters in the Boston area and across America.

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How this N.J. county is successfully helping families find affordable homes

Opinion

By Debbie-Ann Anderson

After more than 15 years of gridlock in Trenton, help is finally coming to central New Jersey residents who have been struggling with finding and keeping affordable homes.

Families throughout the state are beginning to see the positive effects of living in affordable homes in inclusive neighborhoods in New Jersey.

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Posted by on in Resources for professionals

Click here for the Advocates Guide  - A Primer on Federal Affordable Housing & Community Development Programs

The Advocates' Guide is an invaluable resource for anyone involved in or concerned about affordable housing and community development. It contains synopses of housing and community development programs, laws, and regulations, as well as tools to communicate with government and to mobilize advocacy campaigns. 

Download the PDF or purchase a print copy.

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Click here for Fair Share Housing's updated calculations showing housing needs remain great in NJ for lower-income families

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Posted by on in Breaking News

nTIDE March 2017 Jobs Report
Americans with Disabilities Reach Milestone with Full Year of Job Gains

East Hanover, N.J.  - April 7, 2017. Americans with disabilities continue to outpace their counterparts without disabilities, achieving a full year of job gains, according to today's National Trends in Disability Employment - Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). This is the first time in nTIDE reporting that data have been this encouraging. Integrating vocational resources into medical rehabilitation is a promising strategy for maintaining employment among people with disabling injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Hospital-based programs based on early intervention can help people stay in the workplace, or prepare them to return to work.

Click here for Full Report

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In Health Bill’s Defeat, Medicaid Comes of Age

MARCH 27, 2017

When it was created more than a half century ago, Medicaid almost escaped notice.

Front-page stories hailed the bigger, more controversial part of the law that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed that July day in 1965 — health insurance for elderly people, or Medicare, which the American Medical Association had bitterly denounced as socialized medicine. The New York Times did not even mention Medicaid, conceived as a small program to cover poor people’s medical bills.

But over the past five decades, Medicaid has surpassed Medicare in the number of Americans it covers. It has grown gradually into a behemoth that provides for the medical needs of one in five Americans — 74 million people — starting for many in the womb, and for others, ending only when they go to their graves.

Medicaid, so central to the country’s health care system, also played a major, though far less appreciated, role in last week’s collapse of the Republican drive to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. While President Trump and others largely blamed the conservative Freedom Caucus for that failure, the objections of moderate Republicans to the deep cuts in Medicaid also helped doom the Republican bill.

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People with disabilities shouldn't have to leave town because they can't afford a home

By Diane Riley

In January, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a, landmark decision affirming that municipalities must meet the need for housing that accrued during a 16-year gap period when New Jersey's fair housing laws weren't being enforced properly.

This unanimous ruling was a giant step forward for tens of thousands of individuals and families who have been waiting years to find homes they could afford.  It means that towns all over New Jersey must now move forward and identify ways to encourage and support the building and rehabilitation of homes for people with limited financial means. And because of this ruling, more homes will surely be built in the years to come to address our state's ongoing housing affordability crisis.

More than 100 municipalities have already reached agreements with advocates and developers establishing obligations of more than 32,000 homes. 

Yet in a trial that is currently underway in Mercer County, five towns with a higher cost of living - Princeton, West Windsor, East Windsor, Hopewell and Lawrence - are arguing to artificially lower their affordable housing numbers.  Their arguments assert that people with extremely low incomes, families who make less than 20 percent of the area median income, should not be counted in the housing methodology at all because they will never be able to afford living in these towns even if the towns properly zone for additional homes.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

September 8, 2016

NJ SUPREME COURT AGREES TO HEAR IMPORTANT FAIR HOUSING CASE

Court grants appeal from civil rights advocates to defend the legal rights of tens of thousands of working families, seniors, and people with disabilities

Contact: Anthony Campisi  (732) 266-8221

 

The New Jersey Supreme Court Thursday agreed to hear an appeal to ensure that municipalities that had lagged in building homes must meet the needs of tens of thousands of working families, seniors and those with disabilities that accumulated during a 15-year period beginning in 1999.

 

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Fair Share Housing Center, supported by more than 15 additional civil rights, disability rights and housing advocates, argued that a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division deviated from the course New Jersey had set for decades in determining how the state's housing need should be measured.

 

 

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Posted by on in Legislation

Please read SHA's commentary to NJ Medicaid (Department of Human Services, Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services - DMAHS) on its renewal application for Medicaid waiver services which allow the state flexibility in delivery of Medicaid.  

 

SHA is pleased that the state has seen fit to include housing related services in its renewal application. 

Our comments are designed to support these services and to urge the state to request additional opportunities of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for use of Medicaid funding in supportive housing.  

To read SHA's comments click here

The deadline for comments to DMAHS is 5 PM today.  Comments can be sent via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

To read NJ's Comprehensive Renewal Application please click here 

To read CMS circular on Coverage of Housing Related Activities and Services click here

 

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Mental Health, Addiction Agencies Facing Problems With New Billing Reforms

Providers say the shift to fee-for-service reimbursement may hurt ability to serve the neediest patients

Medical Costs

Some New Jersey behavioral health providers fear an overhaul to the billing system designed to increase historically low Medicaid reimbursements may hurt their ability to provide treatment for those not covered by the government-subsidized plan and too poor to pay for their own treatment.

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Appellate Court disappoints in ruling on Mt Laurel Gap Period 
 
Yesterday the Appellate Division issued its ruling on the gap period, a contested issue by hundreds of municipalities that have argued they are not responsible for creating housing during an approximate 15 year period (1999 - 2015) when little housing production took place. The court reversed a lower court decision that required towns to include the gap period along with present and future housing needs. While municipal housing plans will continue to be adopted statewide, this decision has served to reduce the number of overall housing units that will be approved.
 
SHA has voiced continued concern that municipalities are using various arguments to lower their overall housing obligation at a time when people of very low, low and moderate incomes need safe and decent places to live. Studies have demonstrated that a majority of renters are overburdened by the high cost of housing in NJ and that there is an insufficient amount of affordable homes available for those in need. The court's decision will serve to further delay and reduce the amount of housing that is built in NJ. This ruling, in our view, is inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of Mt Laurel.  We are extremely disappointed in the court's decision and its effect on thousands of people with disabilities.  
 
Gail Levinson
SHA Executive Director  
 
For more information see:
Link to articles-
Asbury Park Press article
Philly.com article
 

 

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Susan Livio of NJ.com covered SHAs launch of a new housing guide - click here for full article

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