Better behavioral health in South Jersey hospitals

South Jersey Behavioral Health Innovation Collaborative
May 9, 2016
Renee talks to care team members in the Camden Coalition office
September 27, 2022
RELATE: Helping supervisors support their frontline staff — and prevent burnout
Learn about our new stand-alone training, designed specifically for supervisors of frontline complex care team members.
Paula Derrow, Freelance Writer
Marisol writes in a notebook after talking on the phone with a patient
September 7, 2022
Building genuine patient relationships over the phone
The pandemic and a telephonic social needs navigation program showed how to build authentic healing relationships over the phone.
Marisol Caban, Associate Director of Care Management Initiatives
Author Avani Kashyap at the Camden waterfront
August 31, 2022
Good intentions aren’t enough: Escaping the mindset of poverty porn
A Camden Coalition summer intern reflects on the difference between idealism and solidarity.
Avani Kashyap, Student, Washington and Lee University
Camden Coalition staff members cheer with their hands raised at the end of a team huddle
August 23, 2022
Strengthening ecosystems of care is the future of the complex care field and the way to address social drivers of health
Care coordination on a person-by-person basis is only the first step — which is why ecosystems are at the center of our 2022-2025 strategic plan.
Kathleen Noonan, President and CEO
A patient holds her baby
July 27, 2022
Supporting pregnant and parenting people who use drugs: A new toolkit and webinar
Everyone deserves access to quality healthcare and social support without the fear of criminalization.
Emily Wasuna, Program Manager for Field Building and Resources; Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro, Content Manager, Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies
July 12, 2022
Words matter for inclusive care
How we talk about individuals in verbal and written form can make or break a medical experience before patients even enter the exam room.
Erica LaRocca, Program Assistant for Clinical Redesign Initiatives


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.

Stay Informed

Join our mailing list to get the latest updates sent right to your inbox from the Camden Coalition.

Sign Up