A New Jersey lawmaker is sounding the alarm over what she describes as a severe shortage of mental health professionals for children.

With only about six weeks to go before the start of a new school year, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, R-Morris, said the Garden State is woefully unprepared to address the mental health crisis facing our kids.

“We’re hearing children aren’t even getting seen until 30 days after reaching out for help and services, and that’s at the minimum. It can go up to five, months which is clearly unacceptable,” she said.

Her legislation, A3698, would provide student loan redemption payments of $1,000 a year for four years and gross income tax credits of $1,000 for each taxable year a mental health professional is providing services to children and adolescents.

According to an NJ Spotlight News article, the average medical student is carrying a debt of $350,000 to $400,000 and medical residents are leaving New Jersey, going to other states for lucrative loan repayment options.

“We’re a state of 9 million people and New Jersey has 17 practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children, it’s not enough,” Dunn said.

Of the $9.62 million in the new state budget to increase the number of mental health professionals, 8% is specifically set aside for child and adolescent psychiatrists.

Teenage Girl Visits Doctor's Office Suffering With Depression
Catherine Yeulet, ThinkStock

Dunn said the shortage has been brewing for years, but things got really bad when the pandemic began.

She said the pandemic, domestic tensions, inflation, fears about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the worldwide supply chain crisis and many other issues have a profound impact on kids.

“They’re picking up on the emotional temperature of every household right, and we are under a tremendous amount of stress and children struggle the most in terms of expressing that,” she said.

She’s asking Democratic lawmakers and members of the public to support her effort to bring attention to this issue and get the measure passed.

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions:

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