With alcohol consumption, gambling, substance abuse and opioid overdose deaths shooting higher during the pandemic, the New Jersey Department of Human Services is making a push to help those with a dual disorder of gambling and substance use.

According to DHS Assistant Commissioner Valerie Mielke, almost half of all individuals getting treatment for some type of substance use issue may also be struggling with a gambling disorder.

She said to address this growing problem the Department is investing $1.2 million in a program that will allow 10 substance use treatment agencies in North, Central and South Jersey “to hire a clinician who will assess all individuals who are accessing treatment at that facility, to identify if they may have a gambling disorder.”

She said this kind of review is important because “many times individuals may not recognize that they have a gambling disorder or they just may not disclose that.”

She said when a gambling disorder is identified they will get the assistance they need.

“There’s treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing, which have been proven effective in treating gambling disorders as well as substance abuse disorders,” she said.

Mielke said the World Health Organization now classifies gaming disorders as an identifiable health disorder, which is significant because “here in New Jersey we have legalized sports betting, there’s internet gaming, we have the casinos, there’s greater opportunity for individuals to have a gambling use disorder.”

She said DHS is also providing $600,000 to fund a program to provide robust training and consultation services to mental health and addiction agency staff across Jersey to teach them to identify gambling abuse issues in the clients they serve, and make them aware of the treatments that are available. The program will be provided by Rutgers University.

Mielke noted individuals with a variety of mental illness issues may also be at increased risk of developing a gambling problem, so treatment for them is also important.

The Agencies receiving funding to hire a clinician are:

  • The John Brooks Recovery Center in Atlantic County
  • Vantage Health Systems, Inc. in Bergen County
  • Maryville Inc. in Burlington County
  • Rutgers University RBHS in Essex County
  • Maryville Inc. in Gloucester County
  • Rutgers University RBHS in Middlesex County
  • New Hope Integrated Behavior Health Care in Monmouth County
  • NewBridge Services Inc. in Morris County
  • NewBridge Services Inc. in Passaic County
  • Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center in Somerset County

Anyone needing substance use help an all 1-844-REACHNJ, and those with a gambling problem can call 1-800-GAMBLER.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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