New law encourages mental health physicians to work in underserved areas

TRENTON, NJ — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, John McKeon and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to reimburse tuition for psychiatrists who work in underserved areas of the state has been signed into law.

“The reimbursement program will only be available to physicians who engage in the full-time practice of psychiatry in an area of need designated by the commissioner of health,” Jasey, who represents parts of Essex and Morris counties, said in a press release. “The intent of this law is to increase access to much-needed care in underserved communities.”

Under the new law, S-2331/A-3962, the commissioner of health will designate, on the basis of health status and economic indicators, geographic areas of the state that have a shortage of physicians in the specialty of psychiatry. The program will provide reimbursement of a portion of medical school tuition expenses to psychiatrists who agree to provide mental health care services in one of these state underserved areas for a period of one to four years.

“The decrease in mental health centers in the state has left a void in care for New Jersey residents who rely on these services,” McKeon, who also represents parts of Essex and Morris counties, said in the release. “Mostly low-income urban and rural communities are without access to these services. This law is about creating opportunity and access for residents.”

“There are many steps we must take as a state to improve and strengthen mental health care services,” Vainieri Huttle, who represents parts of Bergen County, said in the release. “This law is one of those steps toward expanding access to care for residents who need it.”

Program participants must be state residents, be state-licensed physicians who have completed all educational and residency training requirements for the practice of psychiatry, and apply for the program within one year of completing an accredited residency program in psychiatry.