As one of his final acts before leaving office, New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed three mental health bills into law. The three bills are intended to improve critical emergency mental health care by standardizing and streamlining care.

Assembly Bill 3582 requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop procedures to enable hospitals promptly to transfer emergency department patients with mental illness to appropriate treatment settings if they have remained in an emergency room for 24 hours or longer. DHS must designate staff within the department who will be notified by a hospital when such a situation arises.

Assembly Bill 3583 requires DHS and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to establish standardized admission protocols and medical clearance criteria for admission to behavioral health facilities. The protocols will cover routine laboratory and diagnostic tests; a medical clearance checklist for transfers or admissions to a psychiatric hospital; guidelines for emergency medical services personnel, procedures for requesting a patient transfer; procedures for contacting the physician at a designated state or county psychiatric hospital or short-term care facility who is responsible for coordinating medical clearance of a patient; and a mechanism for training all of the appropriate medical personnel and screening staff on these new standardized admissions protocols.

The third bill, Assembly Bill 3584, requires DHS and DCF to identify available mental health services and perform needs assessments.