Current New Jersey Legislation and Outreach Efforts 
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.

Legislative Update
The 2018-2019 NJ legislative session ended on January13, 2020 and the new session began the next day on January 14, 2020.  All 2018-2019 legislation that did not get through both houses, and also bills that got to the Governor’s desk and were not signed by the Governor die and would have to be introduced by the sponsor for the 2020-2021 legislative session if they choose to follow through with the bill.

A543 (Jimenez/Giblin/Vainieri Huttle)which amends the training requirements for psychologists, passed the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee on Monday, January 27, 2020 by a vote of 6-0. Thank you Dr. Lucy Takagi, NJPA President, for her testimony on Monday, January 27, 2020! On February 24, 2020, it passed the full Assembly. 

On June 15, 2020, an identical bill (S2582) was introduced in the Senate by Senate Primary Sponsor Vin Gopal.  On July 23, 2020, at 1:00 pm this bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee by a vote of 5-0.  The legislation now goes to the Senate for final passage.  If it passes, then it goes to the Governor’s Office for signing.  

In 2019 - NJPA President, Lucy Takagi, PsyD, then NJPA president-elect, and Michelle Pievsky, PhD, then NJPA Early Career Psychologist Committee chair, testify at the June 6, 2019 Assembly Regulated Professions Committee hearing for the NJ Licensing Act Legislation – A5307 (2018-2019 bill number) Revises psychologist training requirements. They are seen with Primary Sponsor  Assemblywoman Angelica M.Jimenez. Click here to listen

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 Bill 2308 (Vainieri Huttle) - 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. Currently, bill language is being drafted.

Network Adequacy  – 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.

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

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.

Note - New New Jersey Laws

NJ Parity Law -  On April 11, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that will enhance enforcement of mental health parity laws by improving transparency and accountability related to the insurance coverage of mental health and substance use disorder treatment services for New Jersey residents. The law (A2031/S1339) requires health insurers to provide coverage for mental health conditions and substance use disorders under the same terms and conditions as provided for any other sickness and to meet the requirements of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The federal law enacted in 2008 requires equal coverage for mental and physical health care services.

Duty to Warn Amended Law
 –  On March 20, 2019, COLA Chair, Dr. Barry Katz, and NJPA Executive Director, Keira Boertzel-Smith, NJPA Government Affairs Agent, Jon Bombardieri, a representative from the NJ Hospital Association, and a representative from Robert Wood Johnson, attended a meeting at the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office in Trenton to discuss the amendments to the Duty to Warn bill.  Our association closely followed the bill development over the years.  We provided the bill sponsors with suggested amendments to ensure that the bill protects the public while allowing for the most efficient and effective way to implement an additional public safety provision related to 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 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.  Now that the Duty to Warn amendment has become law, the purpose of the meeting was to draw the Attorney General’s attention to a few items that are unclear in the new law language and to assist in developing appropriate procedures.  NJPA looks forward to being on the Attorney General’s Duty to Warn Law Workgroup to address the details about the law amendments.

Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act - On April 12, 2019, Governor Murphy signed into law A1504 - "Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act"; that permits qualified terminally ill patient to self-administer medication to end life in a humane and dignified manner. New Jersey joins several other states (CA, CO DC,HI, MT OR, VT, WA) in having a law that provides a terminally ill patient (prognosis of 6 months or less to live), deemed competent, access to life-ending medication that must be self-administered. The law requires that the patient be deemed competent and the patient may be required to have counseling by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist to ensure that they are not suffering from a serious depression or other mental disorder that would impair judgement.