Mental Health Care Professionals Can Now Partially Satisfy Continuing Education Requirements with Volunteer Work
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Gema de las Heras
NEWARK – As part of the State’s efforts to expand access to mental health care during the COVID-19 public health emergency, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is taking action to encourage mental health care professionals to provide free services to New Jerseyans in need.
Under an Administrative Order signed by Acting DCA Director Kaitlin A. Caruso, mental health professionals will be allowed to partially satisfy their continuing education requirements by providing free services to low income, uninsured individuals or frontline healthcare workers.
The Order also allows mental health professionals to partially satisfy their continuing education requirements by volunteering with organizations that provide mental health services – including crisis intervention and referrals – to low-income, uninsured individuals or to individuals in crisis. A non-exhaustive list of such organizations is available on DCA’s website.
“This week’s action by the Division of Consumer Affairs will make it easier for New Jersey residents who face mental health challenges to get help,” said Attorney General Grewal. “I commend the Division and the professional boards for coming together to find a way to promote access to care for those in need, including frontline healthcare workers experiencing stress related to their support of the COVID-19 response.”
The Order allows mental health professionals to use hours spent providing eligible volunteer services to satisfy a portion of the continuing education credits required for license renewal, with the cap depending on the type of license they hold. Practitioners may offset one hour or one credit of continuing education for every two hours spent on eligible volunteer work. However, practitioners will not be able to offset continuing education requirements specifically allocated to required topics such as ethics, cultural competency, opioid prescribing, or jurisprudence.
“By partially freeing up time for mental health care professionals this Order will make it easier for practitioners to give back during this time of crisis,” said Kaitlin A. Caruso, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We all want, at-risk residents to have more access to professional mental health care services at this time of need.”
“The mental and emotional health effects caused by worry, stress or isolation related to coronavirus has hit especially hard those already suffering from mental health conditions and substance use disorders,” said Sharon Joyce, Director of the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES). “Increasing access to mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical for this vulnerable population and the State’s fight against the opioid epidemic.”
“These have been difficult and stressful times, and we are committed to doing everything possible to expand access to mental health care across the state,” Human Services Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman said. “This is another step to further improve access to mental health care for healthcare workers and individuals with lower incomes.”
The caps on the number of continuing education contact hours or credits that may be offset by providing volunteer services were established by DCA in consultation with the presidents of the relevant professional boards:
- A licensed marriage and family therapist may offset up to 20 contact hours;
- A licensed associate marriage and family therapist may offset up to 10 contact hours;
- A licensed professional counselor or licensed associate professional counselor may offset up to 20 contact hours;
- A licensed rehabilitation counselor may offset up to 10 contact hours;
- A licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor may offset up to 10 contact hours;
- A certified alcohol and drug counselor may offset up to 15 contact hours;
- A licensed art therapist may offset up to 10 contact hours;
- A physician who provides psychiatric services may offset up to 10 Category I continuing medical education credits;
- An advanced practice nurse who provides psychiatric services may offset up to 15 hours of continuing education;
- A licensed psychologist may offset up to 10 credits of continuing education;
- A State-certified psychoanalyst may offset up to 5 credits of continuing education; and
- A licensed clinical social worker may offset up to 10 credits of continuing education.
The Order authorizing professionals to offset continuing education requirements with volunteer work will expire automatically at the end of the state of emergency or public health emergency, whichever is later, if not revoked or superseded earlier. Eligible volunteer services provided while the Order is in effect may be used to offset continuing education requirements in any biennial renewal period during which the Order remains in effect for more than one day. Additional information is available on DCA’s website.
The Department of Law & Public Safety is committed to eliminating stigma around receiving mental health services. DCA encourages all healthcare professionals who wish to receive mental health services to do so without fear of jeopardizing their licenses. Similarly, the Attorney General has established the New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement to ensure that law enforcement officers are provided with the tools they need to cope with the unique stressors of their jobs.
NJMentalHealthCares is New Jersey’s behavioral health information and referral service. Trained staff are available to provide free emotional support seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. by calling 1-866-202-HELP (4357), sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or texting NJHOPE to 51864. Healthcare workers can call HEAL NJ Healthcare Workers help line for emotional support at 1-833-416-8773 and first responders can reach RISE NJ First Responders help line at 1-833-237-4325 for free and confidential assistance. Anyone can also call New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline at 1-855-NJHopeline (654-6735), or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Those battling addiction, can contact ReachNJ at 1-844-ReachNJ. For emergencies, call 911.
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The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.