N.J. cuts back on in-home therapy for behavioral disorders

    In-home behavioral health therapy for about 3,000 New Jersey children will soon end as the state changes the qualifying criteria for in-home visits. The process will begin in February.

    New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families said its intensive in-home services were designed for children who are at high risk for being placed in residential care or the hospital. In an e-mail, Jeffrey Guenzel, director of the Division of Child Behavioral Health Services,  wrote that the new criteria aim to refocus the program on that mission and make sure the service remains available to those who really need it.

    Some parents and advocates say that will cut out some kids who really do benefit from in-home visits, which can more easily involve the whole family and are more accessible.

     “We believe that the criteria the state will now be using will be too restrictive,” said Diana Autin, co-director of New Jersey’s Statewide Parent Advocacy Network. “In the short run, it may save the state money. But in the long run, it will be very costly to the children and families themselves.”

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    Autin and others are asking the state to hold off on the changes until the public can comment, but the state said it had no plans to revisit the issue.

    While the changes will save about $2 million a year,  state representatives say this was not about the money. About 12,000 children receive intensive in-home care services annually.

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