Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark is adding psychiatric services
to its outpatient substance abuse program, allowing the hospital to better
serve the needs of the community.
Saint Michael’s facility would become one of only a small number
of outpatient facilities in and around Newark that can treat both drug
addiction and mental health issues at the same time, said Mark E. Brown,
the program director of the Outpatient Substance Abuse Services at the hospital.
The reason it’s so important, Brown said, is that many people who
have substance abuse issues also have psychiatric issues that also must
“Previously, we would have to refer these patients out to other facilities,
but now we have the ability to treat them all under the same roof in a
convenient location,” Brown said. “This removes a significant
barrier for many in the community and will lead to improved outcomes for
those suffering with substance abuse and mental health issues.”
By offering both psychiatric and treatment services, Outpatient Substance
Abuse Services at Saint Michael’s will be able to take referrals
from New Jersey Drug Court, a program that was created in 1996 in Essex
County to give those arrested for non-violent drug offenses the option
of drug treatment instead of prison.
Opioid addiction has become an epidemic in New Jersey, which has an estimated
128,000 heroin addicts alone. And it impacts all walks of life: urban
and suburban, wealthy and poor.
But treating just the addiction, without addressing the underlying mental
health issues, often results in failure, said Perry Iasiello, Regional
Director Behavioral Health for Prime Healthcare Services, which recently
acquired Saint Michaels.
“Most people who are abusing substances have suffered through trauma
during their developmental years,” Iasiello said. “Those issues
need to be addressed in a coordinated, integrated manner. When we don’t,
the harsh reality is they die 25 years earlier than the general population.
They don’t just die overnight, they get sicker sooner and cost the
system an extraordinary amount of money.”
Brown said addicts are often brought to the emergency room with a drug
overdose. Once they are stabilized, they are released back into the community
only to find themselves in the same situation days, weeks or months later.
But, he said, that mindset must change.
“A drug addict remains acutely ill with mental health and or substance
abuse that needs to be treated with the same urgency,” Brown said.
“That person should not be returned to the community, but referred
to our integrated, co-occurring treatment services.”
Saint Michael’s, through its Peter Ho Clinic, offers one of the largest
treatment facilities for patients infected with the HIV virus. In cases
where those patients are also substance abusers, they can now receive
care under the same roof.
“This provides a one-stop, holistic care in a convenient location,”
Brown said. “When patients can receive all their care in the same
place, it makes a successful outcome more likely.”
For many patients, just getting to treatment can be an issue. In addition
to being centrally located in Newark, Saint Michael’s has a van
to provide transportation for clients to and from the hospital, Brown said.
“We want to break down those barriers,” Brown said. “That’s
the only way we’re going to make our community healthier.”
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