Health centers serving low-income, N.J. patients carve out wider role

    Expanded services such as mental-health care become more crucial as ranks of insured grow under ACA, but state regulations stand in the way.

    For decades, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) have played a crucial role in providing care to low-income New Jerseyans.

    Now, two trends are combining to make the centers even more essential – the rising number of people covered by Medicaid and other health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act and expanded services ranging from pharmacies to dental clinics.

    But state regulations represents a major roadblock to effort to integrate healthcare services for patients who may have chronic physical conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, and behavioral or mental health conditions like depression.

    New Jersey has long-standing rules that require facilities like FQHCs to have separate entrances and service areas for patients in need of behavioral health and addiction services. Several grant-funded and pilot programs have been chipping away at this barrier and a newly proposed state bill would remove it entirely, allowing FQHCs and other ambulatory care facilities to directly offer behavioral healthcare.

    Click through to NJ Spotlight to continue reading.

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