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New Jersey Congressman champions bill for mentally disabled

It's no secret that the U.S. mental health care and addiction care systems tend to lag behind those of other developed countries when it comes to treatment options for low-income individuals. The lack of behavioral health care treatment in many communities contributes to the reported fact that fewer than half of all Americans with a psychological condition receive treatment and an alarming 90 percent of addicts go without.

However, a federal law championed in part by a congressman from New Jersey, is aiming to change that, at least in some states. The law, called the Excellence Act, was passed last year, and created the conditions to fund behavioral health services in communities across 24 states. According to an opinion signed by the heads of the 24 participating states' mental health services agencies, the act allows their communities to offer 24-hour crisis intervention centers as well as on-going care for the individuals that need it. Unfortunately, after a one-year demonstration process, the statute cuts funding to all but eight of the participating states. The opinion, which is joined by the CEO of New Jersey's Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, asks congress to act so that all 24 of the states involved receive extended funding.

It is an unfortunate fact that in the U.S., people with low income levels who face mental health problems tend to end up in emergency rooms and jails as untreated individuals face encounters with law enforcement and first responders. One option open to some of these individuals may be application for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. While disability benefits may not solve the treatment problems for low-income people, it can help to make ends meet while they evaluate their options and attempt to get better.

Applying for mental illness disability benefits is not necessarily easy, as mental illnesses are not always easy to diagnose using objective measures. However, those who may benefit from applying for SSDI or SSI may wish to speak with an experienced New Jersey disability attorney.

Source:, "Congress: Say yes to Excellence Act expansion," Shelly Chandler and Danette Castle, Nov. 23 2015

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