ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Today, New Jersey Governor and outgoing Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) Phil Murphy signed a groundbreaking youth mental health bill (A-3334) after collaboration and advocacy from The Kennedy Forum (TKF) and Inseparable. The bill gives more New Jersey kids access to mental health services in the midst of record youth mental health challenges by allowing education agencies to receive federal Medicaid reimbursement for school-based behavioral health programs and services, and to use those funds to support services for students and their families.
Today’s signing comes at the cumulative moment of Governor Murphy’s NGA Chair Initiative on youth mental health. The Kennedy Forum, the American Psychological Association, Inseparable, and Mental Health America advised the Chair Initiative at meetings and roundtable discussions across the country, and Amy L. Kennedy served as a special advisor to the Chair on the issue of Youth Mental Health for the duration of his term. Earlier this month The Washington Post previewed the NGA Chair’s State Playbook on youth mental health, which includes many of The Kennedy Forum’s priorities, notably on Medicaid expansion and enforcing parity in commercial insurance coverage. Today the full playbook was released at the NGA’s Summer Meeting.
The Kennedy Forum worked with Inseparable to engage in months-long discussions with local leaders advocating that this bill will allow New Jersey to take full advantage of Medicaid’s ability to cover school mental health services and ensure that state resources are being used efficiently to promote student wellness. By equipping schools to bill Medicaid, we will now make taxpayer dollars go further and, most importantly, have more resources to help more students thrive. Our persistence paid off leading into a celebratory July Fourth weekend as the bill passed through the legislature unanimously.
Amy Kennedy comes to this leadership role in youth mental health as a natural progression of her life’s work. She spent years as a New Jersey public school teacher and is the mother of five kids. As the Co-Founder of The Kennedy Forum, she brings unique insights into TKF’s youth mental health focus, working with Policy Director Lauren Finke to create impactful policy change across the U.S. As a self-described “Jersey Girl,” A-3334 has been a policy priority dear to her heart.
“It has been an honor to work closely with our nation’s Governors throughout the year and it was an incredible capstone to see my own Governor, Phil Murphy, sign into law this bill that will make huge strides for New Jersey’s young people, for equity, and for our future,” said Kennedy. “With the NGA’s Youth Mental Health Playbook in hand, our work nationwide continues.”