Better behavioral health in South Jersey hospitals

South Jersey Behavioral Health Innovation Collaborative
May 9, 2016
March 20, 2020
COVID-19 in Camden and beyond
Here's what we are doing to keep our team, our patients, and our community safe and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kathleen Noonan
Camden Coalition patients and staff advocate for New Jersey state policy change around state-issued ID.
February 19, 2020
Proposed changes to Medicaid threaten people with complex needs
Proposed changes to Medicaid and the social safety net pose real threats to people with complex needs.
Shelby Kehoe
January 9, 2020
On the Health Affairs blog: RCT results show a way forward for the Camden Coalition and complex care
In this blog post published on the Health Affairs blog, CEO Kathleen Noonan discusses lessons from the Camden Coalition RCT.
Kathleen Noonan
January 8, 2020
The Camden Core Model RCT shows us a path forward for complex care
A message from our CEO Kathleen Noonan on next steps after the evaluation of our care management intervention, published today in NEJM
Kathleen Noonan
Camden Coalition staff review a whiteboard with patient enrollment information
January 8, 2020
Sharing evidence to inform the future of healthcare delivery and complex care: Lessons from the Camden Coalition and J-PAL North America partnership
Part 2 of a Q&A blog series describing the partnership between the Camden Coalition and researchers affiliated with J-PAL North America.
Kathleen Noonan, Aaron Truchil, Amy Finkelstein
Camden Coalition staff hold whiteboard showing RCT enrollment numbers
January 8, 2020
Evaluating the Camden Core Model: How a research partnership between the Camden Coalition and J-PAL North America was built
Part 1 of a Q&A blog series describing the partnership between the Camden Coalition and researchers affiliated with J-PAL North America.
Kathleen Noonan, Aaron Truchil, Amy Finkelstein


The consensus of many health care researchers and policymakers around the country is that care for mental health and substance use disorders (MH/SUDs) needs to be integrated into traditional health care systems to create a team-based delivery model that focuses on the whole person. Currently mental health care and substance use treatment, often grouped under “behavioral health,” exist in a totally separate and often neglected system, leading to inefficient care, poorer outcomes, and higher costs.

In 2014, the results of a community needs assessment that highlighted gaps in the region’s behavioral health care prompted the five major hospital systems of South Jersey to team together with the New Jersey Hospital Association and the Camden Coalition to create the South Jersey Behavioral Health Innovation Collaborative (SJBHIC). The SJBHIC commissioned the Camden Coalition to research the impact of rising mental health and substance abuse diagnoses on the region’s emergency departments and inpatient units.

We decided to find out where the breakdowns in service were by studying the 834 people who used all five hospital systems between 2010 and 2014. Eighty-two percent of these patients had a mental health or substance use disorder diagnosis. These 686 patients alone received $260M worth of care, for which the hospitals were paid only $31M.

On April 18, the results of this research were presented to SJBHIC at an event that featured former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who has become a national leader on mental health and addiction policy, as keynote speaker. “Mental health affects everybody and we have to take away this veil that it’s just for ‘those’ people,” he said.

Integrating mental health and addiction services with traditional physical health is uniquely difficult in New Jersey. A recent report from researchers at Seton Hall University Law School found that cumbersome licensing requirements and difficulty obtaining Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral health services are preventing many otherwise willing behavioral and primary care providers from integrating their practices. For example, CarePlus New Jersey, an integrated behavioral health center in North Jersey, has had to obtain five separate licenses from the state in order to provide their integrated services.

The five hospital systems of SJBHIC: Cooper University Health Care, Inspira Health Network, Kennedy Health, Lourdes Health System, and Virtua, have committed to working together to modernize their health care delivery systems and move towards an aligned, person-centered approach. This will mean increased case conferencing, placing behavioral health specialists in emergency departments s, standardized protocols and education, and support for Housing First services. Right now SJBHIC is working to pilot a regional care planning initiative using our Health Information Exchange.

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