Two healthcare providers based in Edison and Belle Mead have merged in an effort to expand behavioral health and addiction treatment resources in New Jersey.
A recent press release reported that Carrier Clinic and Hackensack Meridian Health’s (HMH) partnership allows the companies to pool their treatment resources and implement new approaches to battle the state’s opioid crisis.
In April, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced his public health plan. His administration will direct $100 million of the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget to address the opioid epidemic. The funds will be directed toward three strategies: $56 million for prevention, treatment and recovery; $31 million to examine social risk factors; and $13 million in support of infrastructure and data development.
The first strategy will focus on expanding access to outpatient care as well as medication-assisted treatment. The second strategy will address the stigma of addiction, affordable housing for individuals with substance use disorders and development of employment-reentry services for former inmates. The third strategy will work to improve the state’s data collection and collaboration efforts with government and community-based organizations to inform future addiction treatment and prevention strategies.
According to the New Jersey Coordinator of Addiction Response and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES), there were 2,221 drug overdose deaths in 2016. Heroin and fentanyl were the most common substances identified in autopsy and toxicology reports. Somerset and Middlesex counties, where Belle Mead and Edison are located, experienced 226 combined fatalities.
While NJ CARES is currently reporting preliminary 2017 overdose deaths on a monthly basis, it also estimates that more than 1,700 statewide overdose deaths have already occurred between January 2018 and July 2018. Approximately 137 overdoses deaths have occurred in Somerset and Middlesex counties so far this year.
One of the first priorities of the new partnership between HMH and Carrier is to open a new addiction treatment center next year. The providers originally planned to renovate a former religious retreat location into a residential center, but the deal fell apart. In addition, HMH is working to incorporate an additional 37 beds to support inpatient services among its 16 hospitals.
HMH’s CEO views the merger as an opportunity to focus on behavioral health care which has become fragmented throughout the state.
Medical professionals will treat patients in a holistic manner for mental health and substance use disorders as well as provide these services to individuals who are hospitalized for other physical ailments such as diabetes.
As a result of the merger, HMH and Carrier will consult with behavioral health specialists to implement a system to provide 24/7 access to mental health and addiction treatment resources for teenagers and adults. Research capabilities and opportunities for doctors completing their residencies at HMH hospitals or training at Carrier clinics will also be expanded.
Due to the correlation between high-stress jobs and substance abuse, one future program will focus on providing services to people with high-stress jobs, such as emergency service technicians and police officers.
Later this year, Carrier will also collaborate with Princeton University to develop a device people can wear on their wrists to monitor vital signs. Carrier representatives anticipate data will help them predict signs of relapse and allow for interventions to be coordinated.