The New Jersey Mental Health Institute (NJMHI) was established in 2000 as a 501(c)(3) with a mission to promote quality mental health services, and fight against the stigma and discrimination against persons with mental illness and substance use disorders, through policy development initiatives, training, technical assistance, research, data collection and best practice development. NJMHI looks to find innovative solutions to the most challenging behavioral health issues throughout New Jersey, as well as nationally and internationally. Over its long and enduring life, NJMHI has routinely reinvented itself in direct response to changing dynamics in the field of behavioral health – all with an eye toward meeting the needs and aspirations of people who have been held back by their behavioral health issues or traumatic life experiences. With this mindset, NJMHI put a new twist on identifying problems that all too often communities view as intractable and finding potential solutions that ultimately instill hope; promote health; and advance social and service engagement, social equity, and the productivity of persons with histories of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
NJMHI’s first major initiative was the award-winning and nationally and internationally recognized Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics Project, which aimed to enhance resources for New Jersey’s Hispanic communities and the providers who serve them.
Following this success, NJMHI also did business as the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health to expand its focus and help ensure the availability of, access to and delivery of culturally competent services for all Hispanics throughout the country. Free and low-cost statewide conferences and trainings were offered to behavioral health clinics to improve mental health service delivery to diverse racial and ethnic minority groups and to individuals from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex and asexual (or allies) (LGBTQIA) communities.
On the state level, policy recommendations led to the establishment of three state-funded cultural competence training centers, two of which remain and are operated by behavioral health clinics; state funding for bilingual/bicultural clinicians at community-based mental health agencies; diversity on state licensing boards; and mandatory continuing education and training in social and cultural diversity for a large segment of New Jersey’s certified and licensed mental health professionals.
Building on these early accomplishments, NJMHI continues to collaborate with providers to develop innovative behavioral health programs and trainings to address both longstanding issues and emerging needs as they are identified.