EDISON, NJ - Hackensack Meridian Health, one New Jersey’s largest integrated health networks, and Carrier Clinic, a leader in behavioral health with a 100-year history in the state, have signed a letter of intent to explore a partnership to deliver behavioral health care to the region.
“We are thrilled to announce this strategy to deliver exceptional clinical expertise and to demonstrate a new model of high-quality, evidenced-based care,’’ said Robert C. Garrett, Co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “It continues our commitment to fully integrate behavioral health into our network for the benefit of our patients.’’
The letter of intent starts the process to create a seamless system featuring 24-hour access to care ranging from outpatient, to urgent care, residential and inpatient care for mental health and addiction needs for adolescents and adults. A multi-disciplinary team of experts including primary care physicians, psychiatrists, and advanced practice nurses would closely coordinate all needs – addiction treatment, routine care, mental health issues - to provide optimal treatment.
“This plan will create exceptional, comprehensive care at a time of great need for expanded, enhanced, and innovative behavioral health services,’’ said Donald J. Parker, president and CEO of Carrier Clinic.
In 2016, half of the increase in emergency room visits in New Jersey were related to patients’ behavioral health issues. The state is facing an opioid epidemic that claimed more than 2,200 lives in 2016, a record high and 40 percent increase from the previous year. Joining of Hackensack Meridian Health and Carrier Clinic would also provide greater access and choice to New Jersey residents who often seek treatment out of state, away from their family and support network.
“The opioid crisis is unprecedented in its scope and intensity and this partnership would enhance our efforts to be part of the solution,’’ said John K. Lloyd, Co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “It would also deliver a team-based care approach to behavioral health patients who too often received fragmented care which doesn’t yield the best outcomes.’’
Edison-based Hackensack Meridian Health has 16 hospitals and more than 450 patient care locations and physician offices in eight counties. The network reaches two-thirds of the state population. It includes four hospitals ranked among the top 10 in New Jersey, including the No. 1 ranked Hackensack University Medical Center, according to U.S. News World & Report.
Hackensack Meridian Health has made major strides to advance behavioral health care in New Jersey. The network is adding 37 inpatient beds to its 150-bed capacity and maintains psychiatric outpatient services. Additionally, the network is starting two new psychiatry residency programs in July with 10 physicians kicking off the four-year program. A child psychiatry fellowship program is slated to start in 2020.
Carrier Clinic’s home in Belle Mead is a 100-acre rural campus which provides short-term, acute care hospitalization for psychiatric illness and substance abuse for adolescents 12-18, and treatment for adults 18 and older. Carrier Clinic’s campus includes a licensed 281-bed capacity hospital; the Blake Recovery Center, a licensed 40-bed inpatient and outpatient detox and recovery facility; East Mountain Youth Lodge, which can house up to 91 residents ages 13-18; and East Mountain School, a fully-accredited school for 120 7th-12th graders affected by behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Carrier Clinic has nearly 1,000 employees, including 26 members of the medical staff.
Carrier Clinic also has a nationally recognized electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) program, which is used to treat severe major depression or bipolar disorder that does not respond to other treatment. Last month, Carrier Clinic received the Outstanding Provider Award from the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.
Additionally, with the opening this year of the Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine in North Jersey, patients would have access to nationally recognized experts in psychiatry, behavioral health, integrative medicine and addictions medicine who are on the faculty of the medical school.
The letter of intent begins a process of due diligence and crafting a definitive agreement.
The combination of Carrier Clinic’s behavioral health system together with Hackensack Meridian Health and the Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine would be a first in New Jersey. It also aligns the plan with national leaders in behavioral health which operate medical schools, hospital networks and psychiatric facilities. They include: Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital; the Menninger Clinic and Baylor University Department of Psychiatry as well as Columbia University/Cornell University NYP and New York-Presbyterian Westchester Division, all part of New York-Presbyterian.