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.

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    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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