Member News — Hackensack Meridian Health and Carrier Clinic Merge to Enhance Behavioral Health in Tri-State Area
January 3rd, 2019
Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive and integrated health network, is proud to announce that Carrier Clinic, a leader in behavioral health with a 100-year history in the state, is joining the network which will result in unsurpassed behavioral health care in the region.
“We are writing a new chapter for the treatment of mental illness and substance use disorder as we integrate Carrier’s proven services into our network’s robust behavioral health care,’’ said Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “We must truly integrate behavioral health into health care and expand treatment options as our state battles a opioid epidemic that has claimed too many lives and devastated so many families.’’
The merger – a rare partnership in the U.S. of a behavioral health provider and a multi-hospital network – will enhance care in several ways:
- New addiction treatment centers will open in New Jersey, including the first one next year.
- Urgent care centers will offer behavioral health services on site – a first in New Jersey.
- A $25 million investment will update Carrier’s Belle Mead campus.
- A multi-disciplinary team of experts including primary care physicians, psychiatrists, and advanced practice nurses will closely coordinate all needs – addiction treatment, routine care, mental health issues – to provide optimal treatment throughout the 17-hospital network.
- The merger will enhance research to improve behavioral health care and provide additional opportunities for the network’s growing psychiatry residency programs, including the creation of a child adolescent psychiatry fellowship
“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 of Carrier Clinic.
About half the increase in emergency room visits in New Jersey were related to patients’ behavioral health issues. The state is facing an opioid epidemic that is on target to claim 3,000 lives this year, up from 2,200 lives in 2016. Beyond improving care, the merger will also result in more coordinated, cost-effective care.
The joining of Hackensack Meridian Health and Carrier Clinic will 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 will enhance our efforts to be part of the solution,’’ said Gordon N. Litwin, chair of the Hackensack Meridian Health Board of Trustees.
“It will also deliver a team-based care approach to behavioral health patients who too often received fragmented care which doesn’t yield the best outcomes,’’ said Thomas Amato, chair of the Carrier Clinic Board of Trustees.
As of today, Edison-based Hackensack Meridian Health now has 17 hospitals and more than 500 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, 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 robust psychiatric outpatient services. Additionally, the network started two new psychiatry residency programs this month with 10 physicians kicking off the four-year program. A child psychiatry fellowship program is slated to start in 2020. There will also be a new child adolescent psychiatry fellowship created. All of these new opportunities are aimed at addressing the shortage of psychiatrists, especially for children and adolescents.
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 297-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 1,100 team members, 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. 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 will 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 merger will go into effect today. The agreement follows months of due diligence where a thorough review of clinical, regulatory, service, and financial issues occurred. The agreement was also approved by the state Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission.
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 will 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.