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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                Contact:          Teresa Ruiz

October 17, 2006                                                                              973-621-4404

                                                                                                            Anthony Puglisi

                                                                                                            973-621-2542

ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO KICKS OFF INNOVATIVE

MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTE AT ESSEX COUNTY HOSPITAL CENTER

New Academic Division will be the First of its Kind in New Jersey

Cedar Grove, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced the creation of the Institute for Mental Health Policy, Research and Treatment, a new academic division of the Essex County Hospital Center, on Tuesday, October 17th at the site of the County’s new, state-of-the-art psychiatric building in Cedar Grove. Governor Jon Corzine joined the County Executive at the dedication ceremony for the Institute, which is the first of its kind in New Jersey.

“The provision of quality health care is a concern to all Americans and I believe that local and county governments can and must have an active role to shape this national issue,” DiVincenzo said. “My administration has been committed to providing the highest quality of care for our patients. We decided to keep the hospital in the serene and familiar surroundings of Cedar Grove and will soon open a new, state-of-the-art building to replace our antiquated facilities. The Institute is another proactive step we are taking that will benefit the care and treatment of our patients,” he added.

"The Institute for Mental Health Policy, Research, and Treatment represents an important step toward creating a holistic mental health system, based on a wellness and recovery model," said Governor Corzine.  "This facility reflects our important commitments to prevention, early intervention, and public-private linkages with community resources and support," he added.

Joining the County Executive and Governor at the ceremony were Dr. Robert L. Johnson, Dean of UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School; Dr. Charles H. Kellner, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School; Dr. Javier I. Escobar, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Sara Torres, Dean of the UMDNJ School of Nursing; Dr. A. Zachary Yamba, President of Essex County College; Clarke Bruno, Acting Commissioner of the NJ Department of Human Services, and Kevin Martone, Assistant Commissioner of the NJ Division of Mental Health Services.

“As a result of these new clinical-academic partnerships, a cadre of mental health professionals will combine their expertise while offering quality treatment programs, conducting research and serving as advocates for families," said Dr. Robert Johnson, Interim Dean of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School. "This interdisciplinary approach will focus on the holistic needs and wellness of the men, women and children who are in our care,” he added.

“The creation of the Mental Health Institute represents a significant improvement in the area of mental health care and will help bridge the gap between clinical research and our consumers,” Clarke Bruno, Acting Commissioner of the NJ Department of Human Services, said. “I welcome this partnership between many levels of government and the medical profession because we will be able to transform our mental health care system. I applaud County Executive Joe DiVincenzo for making this institute a reality. It is a remarkable accomplishment,” he added.

The mission of the Institute is to “improve access to quality mental health care and services by bridging the gap between research and clinical practice and by promoting such practice across all levels of care through policy, research, education and technology.” To accomplish this mission, the Institute will work to reduce the amount of time it takes to bring new and safe treatments to patients, assist with workforce development, integrate new technology and work with mental health care providers. It will expand the role of the Essex County Hospital Center beyond just patient care to include teaching, research and workforce development.

“Various studies throughout the years have identified a variety of obstacles in the general health care delivery system and called for reforms to improve the system and patient care. Our current mental health care system in the United States is fragmented, costly and not conducive to helping patients integrate into society,” Lucia Guarini, Director of the Essex County Department of Health and Rehabilitation and Director of the Essex County Hospital Center, said. “Our innovative Mental Health Institute brings together all aspects of our mental health care delivery system under one roof in a coordinated and cohesive program. The only goal we have – along with our partners from New Jersey’s respected medical schools and institutions – is to improve health care for our patients and their families,” she added.

“The Institute for Mental Health provides Essex County with a great opportunity to vastly improve the quality of care for our patients. We will have the ability to mold and develop a highly skilled workforce, bring new techniques and treatments to our patients more quickly and provide a clear picture that can influence government policy,” Dr. Elangovan said.

The Institute has established Clinical Academic partnerships with UMDNJ New Jersey Medical School, UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, UMDNJ School of Nursing, Fairleigh Dickenson University School of Nursing, Felician College School of Nursing, Bayonne School of Nursing, and Essex County College to develop six centers of excellence that will specialize in a specific area of mental health care. They are as follows:

  1. The Center for Mood Disorders will focus on improving diagnostic assessment and treatment of major mood disorders, such as major depression, bipolar disorders and post partum depression.
  2. The Center for Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders will enhance effective treatment and rehabilitative strategies to promote wellness and recovery of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective.
  3. The Center for Metabolic Disorders will focus on reducing major medical problems of patients by promoting healthy lifestyles and appropriate medical intervention. This includes targeting health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
  4. The Center for Workforce Development will focus on providing adequate training and education for the current and future front-line providers and professionals to promote competent mental health work force.
  5. The Center for Mental Health Policy will focus on helping the consumers and their families with their health care providers. This center will assemble clinical, policy experts and providers in the community to study the needs that will promote the return of the consumer to the community. In addition, it will make necessary policy and budgetary recommendations to the County and State agencies.
  6. The Center for Technology Integration will promote access to information to foster a continuous caring relationship between consumers and providers through a web-based plan of care. This information will be available to health care providers across all levels to review, update and work with consumers and their families.

The new division will be overseen by Lucia Guarini, Director of the Essex County Department of Health and Rehabilitation and Director of the Essex County Hospital Center. Dr. Natarajan Elangovan, Medical Director of the Essex County Hospital Center, will serve as Director of the Institute for Mental Health and be responsible for all operations. In addition, an 11-member advisory board representing academic, social and political leadership will provide advisory oversight. The volunteer members will be nominated by the County Executive and approved by the Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The Institute will be funded through the Essex County Hospital Center’s existing operating budget. It is anticipated that the Institute’s contribution to improve patient care will reduce the cost of the Hospital Center’s operation. In addition, the County will apply for available grants from the Federal government and charitable organizations.

Dedicated to Improving Patient Care

The institute is the most recent initiative to improve the quality and delivery of health care at the Essex County Hospital Center during DiVincenzo’s administration.

Essex County is currently constructing a modern, $58.3 million hospital center facility on 11 acres of County-owned property in Cedar Grove. It is scheduled to open by December 2006. The four-story Hospital Center will replace the current facility, which opened in 1897, and will accommodate 180 patients. The residential rooms will be clustered in small groups so patients will never be far from hospital supervision staff. There will be a chapel, computer lab, library, gymnasium and hair care center for patients and additional rooms will be available for therapy and programs. Patients will be able to get fresh air and exercise on about three acres of open space on the hospital grounds. The Hospital Center also will have space for administration offices and medical exam areas.

“Joe DiVincenzo is the first County official to hear the pleas from families who wanted better care for the patients in the Hospital Center,” Regina Palo, a member of the National Association for the Mentally Ill, said. “To realize this type of hospital and this type of institute is way beyond the dream we started with 25 years ago. Joe gave us hope that we could bring this type of service to the mentally ill,” she added.

Since 2003, an in-house Interdisciplinary Committee for Treatment Program Planning has been charged with the development, implementation and continuous monitoring of a master treatment milieu and individual treatment schedules for all patients. Additional employees were recruited, including a medical director, therapeutic and rehabilitation director, social services administrator, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and hospital attendants.

The Essex County Hospital Center also reorganized its plan of care for patients. This would ensure patient outcomes were improved and increase the accountability of staff.  A matrix model was instituted which blends treatment and psychosocial rehabilitation in various proportions depending on the level of acuity of the illness and the capability of the individual. A team of individual treatment providers made of psychiatrists, general practice doctors, psychologists and social workers are assigned to a patient upon admission to the hospital. This team continues to work with the patient throughout their hospital stay to promote continuity of care, appropriate patient outcomes, and discharges to less-restrictive community settings. 

The Essex County Hospital Center received three-year accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) in June 2004.

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