Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive and integrated health network, and Carrier Clinic, a leader in behavioral health with a 100-year history in the state, are proud to announce they have signed a definitive agreement to merge to deliver unsurpassed behavioral health care to the region.
“We are writing a new chapter for the treatment of behavioral health and substance abuse disorders as we integrate Carrier’s proven services into our network’s robust behavioral health care,” said Robert C. Garrett, Co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “We must continue to truly integrate behavioral health into health care and expand treatment options as our state battles an opioid epidemic that has claimed too many lives and devastated so many families.”
The merger will enhance care in several ways:
- A new addiction treatment center will open in New Jersey next year.
- Behavioral health experts will 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.
- The merger will enhance research to improve behavioral health care and provide additional opportunities for the network’s growing psychiatry residency and fellowship programs.
The agreement follows more than five months of due diligence where a thorough review of clinical, regulatory, service, and financial issues occurred. The merger will undergo regulatory review with the various governing agencies, including the state Attorney General and the New Jersey Departments of Health and Education.
“This partnership will enable Carrier Clinic to fulfill our vision of building on a century of compassionate care, shaping the future of behavioral health,” said Thomas G. Amato, chairman of the Carrier Clinic Board of Trustees.
“Teaming Carrier with Hackensack Meridian Health and the new Medical School creates one of the region’s – and potentially one of the nation’s – most innovative and influential full-service networks in behavioral health patient care,” Amato said. “Patients and their families are the big winners today.”
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. The crisis continues and this year law enforcement experts say that New Jersey is likely to lose 3,000 people to overdoses.
The 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.
“This is a break-through moment for both organizations,” said Donald Parker, CEO and President, Carrier Clinic.
“Hackensack Meridian Health is among the most respected and advanced providers of clinical services in the entire United States and Carrier Clinic delivers unsurpassed expertise in the science of behavioral health and addiction therapies,” Parker said. “I can’t imagine a more timely or needed partnership for the betterment of the mental health, as well as overall health, of the people of New Jersey and beyond.”
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 comprehensive psychiatric outpatient services. Additionally, the network started two new psychiatry residency programs in July with 10 physicians kicking off the four-year program. A child psychiatry fellowship program is being developed to start in 2020.
“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.
“This merger helps us fulfill our commitment to providing patients with the full continuum of care,” said Joseph Simunovich, co-Chairman of the Hackensack Meridian Health Board of Trustees.
“Enhancing behavioral health services is timely and essential and elevates the high-quality, innovative care that is the signature of our network,” said Gordon N. Litwin, Esq. co-Chairman of the Hackensack Meridian Health Board of Trustees.
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 inpatient psychiatric 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 24 employed 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. Earlier this year, 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 Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, patients would have access to nationally recognized experts in psychiatry, behavioral health, integrative medicine and addiction treatment who are on the faculty of the medical school.
The combination of Carrier Clinic’s behavioral health system together with Hackensack Meridian Health and the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University 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.