Hackensack Meridian aims to partner with Carrier to expand behavioral health services in New Jersey

Hackensack Meridian Health, one of the more prominent healthcare systems in New Jersey, is looking to expand its behavioral health offerings and get into the substance abuse rehabilitation care business.

The nonprofit integrated health system announced it has signed a letter of intent with Carrier Clinic to explore a partnership to expand behavioral healthcare services in the region. The letter will now begin a process of due diligence and crafting a definitive agreement.

The two organizations aim to provide 24-hour access to care ranging from urgent care to outpatient, inpatient and residential care for adolescents and adults with mental health and addiction needs. A multidisciplinary team of experts including primary care physicians, psychiatrists and advanced practice nurses would closely coordinate all needs—addiction treatment, routine care, mental health care—to provide optimal treatment.

The partnership would also provide greater access and choice to New Jersey residents who often seek treatment out of state, according to the announcement. The need for the services is great. In 2016, half of the increase in emergency room visits in New Jersey was related to patients’ behavioral health issues. The state is also not immune to the opioid epidemic that has become a national public health emergency. The opioid crisis has claimed more than 2,200 lives of New Jersey residents in 2016, a record high and a 40% increase from the previous year, the organizations said.

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“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, in the announcement. “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.”

Hackensack Meridian Health is made up of 16 hospitals, including three academic medical centers, two children’s hospitals and nine community hospitals, two rehabilitation hospitals, more than 450 patient care sites and physician offices. It also has 150 beds within its system that are used for treating mental health issues.

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Carrier's facilities include a licensed 281-bed hospital; the Blake Recovery Center, a licensed 40-bed inpatient and outpatient detox and recovery facility; East Mountain Youth Lodge, a youth house for residents ages 13-18; and a school for middle and high school students. 

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, the organizations said. It will provide patients with access to nationally recognized experts in psychiatry, behavioral health, integrative medicine and addictions medicine who are on the faculty of the medical school.

Meanwhile, Hackensack Meridian has continued its other business activities, including acquiring JFK Health, one of the Garden State’s few remaining independent healthcare facilities, and investing $25 million last year in a new regional business incubator.