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Hackensack Meridian Health Launches Nation's First Urgent Care Center With Behavioral Health Services

EDISON, N.J. and NEPTUNE, N.J., Sept. 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey's largest and most comprehensive health network, announced today that it has launched the first medically integrated urgent care center with behavioral health in the country, a major part of a comprehensive strategy to improve access, better coordinate care and innovate treatment for people struggling with mental health issues and addiction.

"This first-of-a-kind concept will help us transform behavioral health care in New Jersey and beyond," said Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. "It is so important that we give patients options for high-quality, convenient and affordable health care outside the walls of hospitals."

Patients who use this new urgent care center will have access to a behavioral health team including mental health technicians, licensed clinical social workers, advance practice nurses and, if required, a psychiatrist via telemedicine. These new behavioral health services will improve treatment the following ways:

  • Increase access to treatment for behavioral health patients in an appropriate setting.
  • Provide more timely care for people who may have to wait to see a specialist.
  • Reduce the burden on already stressed hospital emergency departments.
  • Provide more coordinated and comprehensive care to improve patient outcomes.
  • Address the stigma associated with mental health by affording patients a safe and confidential place to access the care they need.
  • Provide immediate access to more intensive care it necessary.

"Everyone needs a 'checkup from the neck up' at certain points in life, but our current health care system doesn't make that easy," said former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who joined Hackensack Meridian officials, lawmakers and other guests to celebrate the ribbon cutting. The center is located at 2040 Route 33 in Neptune, across from Hackensack Meridian Health's Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

"This behavioral health urgent care center is a game changer in that it acknowledges behavioral health as an essential component of overall health and makes it easy for people to connect to treatment," said Mr. Kennedy. "Breaking down barriers to care helps everyone—individuals, families, and the community at large."

Hackensack Meridian Health is taking a leadership role in behavioral health care at a time when life expectancy in the US is declining, in part due to the increases in opioid-related deaths and suicide.

Other major statistics reveal why Hackensack Meridian Health is working to dramatically improve behavioral health care:

  • New Jersey lost more than 3,100 people last year to overdoses.
  • One in five adults experiences a mental health issue in the U.S.
  • An estimated 50 percent of patients today who are seen in primary care offices, urgent care settings and emergency departments have a behavioral health need.
  • Among those conditions, depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among those 18 to 44 years old.
  • 60 percent of people with mental health issues did not receive care in the prior year.

"Adding psychology to urgent care services allows us to treat patients with behavioral health issues in as non-stigmatizing and non-threatening a manner as possible," said Donald J. Parker, LCSW, president of Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic and Behavioral Health Care Transformation Services,

"It is difficult for a general practitioner to have the time and the ability to handle psychological issues when a patient walks through their door. We need equal levels of those skills in urgent care and this concept does just that, addressing physical and psychological health challenges on par with each other," Mr. Parker said.

In addition to the human toll, the impact of substance abuse and mental health diagnoses dramatically drives up health care costs. Depression ranks among the costliest illnesses in the US and globally. The US loses nearly $200 billion annually in lost productivity due to mental illness.

"We believe this new model will become a shining example of best practices in the treatment of behavioral health patients and we believe it will be replicated nationally," Mr. Garrett said.


Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children's hospitals - Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals - JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 35,000 team members, and 7,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network's notable distinctions include having four hospitals among the top in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and being named to Becker's Healthcare's "150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2019" list.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University opened in 2018, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its second class of 96 students in 2019 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

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SOURCE Hackensack Meridian Health