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Opinion and editorials

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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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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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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Budget limbo of sequestration puts squeeze on low-income New Jerseyans facing homelessness

Staci Berger Richard W. Brown
Stacie Berger and Richard W. Brown

Lynne worked full time for 30 years, was married, and had her own home. But after a divorce, a job loss, and foreclosure, she was homeless for almost two years. With the help of a housing voucher and support services from Family Promise, she moved into her own apartment. In August, after six months of volunteer experience, she began working full time as an administrative coordinator for a nonprofit in Morris Plains. She drives to work every day in a car that was donated to her.

Lynne says that homelessness “can happen to anyone” and that she “would still be in the street if there were not programs in place.”

“Lawmakers need to know how important vouchers are,” says Lynne.

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