Should behavioral health patients be able to get treatment in primary care settings? Elnahal says, ‘Yes’

Making good on a commitment he made earlier in the year, state Department of Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal published guidance Monday that he hopes will allow health care providers to better serve behavioral health and substance abuse patients in the same clinical setting as primary care.

Currently, regulations make it difficult for those services to coexist in the same facility, because there are different departments and agencies regulating these three sectors. Elnahal hopes this recommendation will set the tone for permanent regulatory changes he is pursuing.

In January, at the announcement of the merger of Carrier Clinic and Hackensack Meridian Health, Elnahal told ROI-NJ that the current regulations are cumbersome because they assume these health care services will only be provided in separate facilities.

He particularly noted that the rules of their buildout show the disfunction. Elnahal and others have specifically noted the specifications for hallway sizes, locations of janitor’s closets, separate waiting rooms and other such rules, which make it hard to build out in a hospital.

“That makes no sense,” Elnahal said in January. “It increases costs, it makes it harder to deliver the right care and it’s not evidence-based. So, the single license is among the most important things we are doing.”

Go to top