PARSIPPANY, NJ - When then-Governor Chris Christie appointed virtually an entire new Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Board of Trustees last year, he likely was hoping to give the hospital a fresh start. That may not be as easy as simply naming new board members.
The newly-constituted board held its first meeting Thursday and soon found itself facing longstanding complaints about hospital assaults and other problems with an institution that has been located in Parsippany since 1876.
"This hospital is one major lawsuit away from (a) tragedy," Eric Marcy, one of the longtime board members Christie replaced, said from his new spot in the audience.
Marcy recently had co-authored a newspaper op-ed that said, ""New Jersey is not meeting its moral obligation to care for some of our most vulnerable citizens, the patients of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital. The situation is complicated by the fact that many of these people, citizens with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and often elderly, cannot speak for themselves"
At the meeting, Marcy said state hospital officials often ignore assaults unless a victim is seriously injured. He noted that even a simple assault is a crime. While new board members did not respond, Marcy later in the meeting offered to meet with them to give them a sort of history course on Greystone. There is much history with a hospital that's been around for more than 100 years. Marcy said he has studied the hospital and past treatment philosophies and was willing to assist the new board.
The new board includes local political officials like Morris County Sheriff James Gannon and Morris Township Committeeman Bruce Sisler along with former Christie confidants such as Wayne Hasenbalg, the onetime CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and Michele Brown, the head of Choose New Jersey, which aims to attarct businesses to the state.
"I'm looking forward to having a supportive board," said Teresa McQuaide, the intermim hospital CEO.
McQuaide gave the board a brief rundown of Greystone operations, noting that the hospital has slightly more than 500 patients. Stressing how treatment has indeed changed over the decades,
McQuaide said, "We now believe that people with mental illness can get better."
Still, all was not peaceful. McQuaide said it's been past practice for the board to meet 10 times a year, skipping meetings in December and in one of the summer months. She wanted to know if the new board would follow the same pattern. Marcy quickly interjected from the audience that the board always has met 11 times a year, not 10. McQuaide didn't respond, but briefly left the meeting room.
"She's going to have me removed," Marcy said.
Turns out Marcy was not removed, although the episode certainly showed the new board members the underlining tension surrounding Greystone.