Atlantic Health officially opened the new Chambers Center for Well Being in Morristown, a 20,000-square-foot space that will provide holistic care to individuals coping with health problems, as well as those who aren’t sick but want to gain vitality through wellness strategies that engage both mind and body.
Philanthropist Ray Chambers is a major donor to the center, which has so far raised about $6 million for the initiative, according to Linda Reed, vice president, integrative and behavioral medicine for Atlantic Health.
For more than a decade, Atlantic has offered integrative medicine, practiced by board-certified physicians who design care plans and lifestyle management programs for optimally treating the whole person. The Chambers Center houses Atlantic Integrative Medical Associates, a four-physician integrative medicine practice that includes an internist, a cardiologist, an endocrinologist and a pediatrician.
Integrative medicine combines conventional Western medicine with such treatments as acupuncture, massage, mindfulness stress reduction, biofeedback, yoga and herbal medicine.
Atlantic Health said the opening of the Chambers Center marks its continuing collaboration with Dr. Deepak Chopra.
Atlantic said Chopra will collaborate with the Chambers Center to develop and deliver his programs, including stress reduction and meditation. Atlantic said Chopra has identified the Chambers Center as a future partner in his research into personalized medicine and the genome.
Rick Weiss, president of Viocare in Princeton, which develops science-based wellness programs for employers, is impressed.
“This is exciting,” he said. “For so long health care has focused on addressing the symptoms of disease and not looking at the complete picture.”
Weiss said an integrative medicine approach understands the complexity of an individual.
“It takes into account not only the physical body, but also the mind, spirit, and community improving the management of someone’s condition, reduce symptoms, and helping to prevent illness,” he said.
“Integrative medicine will be more readily available to members of the community. It will help individuals know what additional care options are available and allow someone to choose the type of care that fits them best.”
Reed said for years the Atlantic integrative medicine team has been providing care to patients in the hospital, who were admitted for surgery, or childbirth or another procedure.
“We see patients who are stressed, who have nausea or pain or who just don’t feel well,” she said. “The benefits of integrative medicine prove that health is more than the absence of disease — it is a cohesive balance of body, mind and spirit that can lift individuals to their highest state of wellness.”
Dr. Mimi Guarneri is a cardiologist and senior advisor for the Chambers Center. Among the programs that will be offered at the Chambers Center is the Dr. Dean Ornish Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program, which provides intensive lifestyle change coaching to patients who have experienced a cardiac event.
Guarneri said the Ornish program is one of several integrative medicine programs covered by Medicare. She said some Chambers Center programs are covered by health insurance and others are not, depending on the plan. She said some individuals are able to use their flexible spending accounts to cover the cost, and she predicted that in the years ahead, more insurance plans will cover integrative medicine.
She said the Chambers Center offers health and fitness classes that cost $10 or $15 a session, on topics such as cooking, yoga, meditation and T’ai Chi. And she said donors have contributed money for scholarships, including a scholarship program for veterans.
“If someone really should be in a mindfulness based stress reduction program and they can’t afford it, we have money for them,” Guarneri said. “Our goal is to turn no one away but to figure out a way to make it work.
“In Western medicine we have a science of disease care: we diagnose disease and we treat it.”
National health care spending, she said, skyrockets because we are not focusing our energy on keeping people healthy.
“There is also a science of health, a science of keeping people healthy, and that is what the Chambers Center is all about,” she said.
Guarneri said the center’s physicians “are trained in Western medicine, but they are also trained in holistic, integrative medicine and understand how to use nutrition, vitamins, fitness, and mind-body medicine in a way that can be as effective, if not more effective, than some of the medications we give. It is really taking to heart, literally, the concept that food is medicine and that your mind influences your body.”
Working side by side with the doctors are licensed practitioners of acupuncture, nutrition, massage and other integrative medicine approaches,
Guarneri said the professionals at the Chambers Center will help patients make sense of the avalanche of health information that floods the culture.
“Now they have a place they can go so they don’t have to rely on the latest magazine article about a supplement,” she said.
Joel Cantor, director of the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, said the Chambers Center will be attractive to a health-conscious clientele and is a promising business strategy for Atlantic Health.
“From a health perspective, it can be of considerable value if well executed,” he said.
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