Hackensack Meridian Health on Sept. 20 launched the first medically integrated urgent care center with behavioral health in the country.
Robert Garrett, chief executive of HMH, told NJBIZ that the new center is a strategic fit with the health system’s overall mission to improve access, better coordinate care and innovate treatment for people struggling with mental health issues and addiction.
“The goal is to expand access to care and to assure that patients don’t have to compete with an emergency room, he explained. “Patients can now been seen within minutes and consult via telemedicine with the appropriate health care professional. It is the model for the future.”
Garrett added it is important to provide patients with options for high-quality, convenient and affordable health care outside the walls of hospitals.
He said that the center would ultimately lead to improved outcomes and lower costs.
Donald Parker, president of Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic and Care Transformation Services, Behavioral Health Integrative Medicine told NJBIZ that the new center is “unprecedented in America.”
“Bob Garrett and Hackensack Meridian Health were on board from the beginning,” Parker said.
He asserted that the integrated behavioral center would be beneficial to patients in myriad ways including by providing a stigma-free environment and services in the same building.
Parker said adding psychology to urgent care services allows health care practitioners to treat patients with behavioral health issues in as non-stigmatizing and non-threeatening a manner as possible.
“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,” Parker said.
Patrick Kennedy, a former Rhode Island congressman, founder of The Kennedy Forum, and co-chair of Mental Health for US, told NJBIZ that his uncle — President John F. Kennedy — signed the Community Mental Health Act and that the HMH center: “embodied that vision that we are seeing today in community mental health.”
Kennedy said mental health has been treated inadequately and this center is the answer to what patients need. “They do it right, not just in New Jersey but they are a model for the rest of the country.”
He added: “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.”
Patients who use the center will have access to a behavioral health team that includes mental health technicians, licensed clinical social workers, advance practice nurses and, if required, a psychiatrist via telemedicine. According to HMH, 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.
The center is located at 2040 Route 33 in Neptune, across from Hackensack Meridian Health’s Jersey Shore University Medical Center.