News

Connections Fall-Winter 2014

From our CEO

Never before has there been such synergy between science and advocacy in the Mental Health arena as witnessed by guests at our 5th Annual Gala on November 15th. We were honored to have some of the brightest and most accomplished advocates of mental health in the room, and we see this as just the beginning of a new and exciting future for those working in our field. We are gaining momentum on a daily basis, both universally and right here at Carrier. Our new buildings are going up even faster than expected, giving us the opportunity to deliver a beautiful and healing setting for our patients sooner than anticipated.

With all of our advances, there is still much to do. I invite you to read our feature story on the Heroin Crisis–it does affect us all, and there is something we can do about it. Learn about the free support groups we run on a weekly basis for those with addiction illnesses and their family members. Visit our YouTube channel and share our video series with your contacts on Facebook. Together we can educate the public on mental health and addiction illnesses.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Connections. We are proud to share our history and advancements with you, and invite you to pass along this copy to others who may be interested in our work.

Please consider investing in our building project or in any of the programs we offer at Carrier. We will have numerous naming opportunities to consider in 2015, from pavers to paintings, from buildings to barnyards. Contact Donna Zaleski at (908)281-1495 to discuss ways that you can participate in our vision of “Building on a century of compassionate care.”

DONALD J. PARKER
Carrier Clinic® CEO

Seeing the total picture in 3D

The emotional well-being and behavioral risk factors of young people are much-discussed in our society, but on November 14, 2014, the mental health of the elderly took center stage during an educational conference in Sayreville, NJ that was co-sponsored by Carrier Clinic®. Presented with Princeton House Behavioral Health and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD) of Middlesex County, the conference focused on the prevention and treatment of The Three D’s— Depression, Dementia and Drug Abuse, with representatives from each of the sponsors delivering a one hour presentation on a featured topic. Representing Carrier Clinic® and addressing the audience of 130 professionals on the subject of Dementia was Dr. Shailaja Shah, a geriatric psychiatrist on staff at Carrier Clinic®.

Speaking in advance of the event, Dr. Shah remarked, “I’m passionate about this topic…we’ll be concentrating on three areas: the clinical features and causes of dementia; the behavioral complications that occur, and ways in which we assess and treat the individual.”

Even as many facilities for the elderly continue to maintain a “one size fits all” approach to caring for residents with dementia, professionals like Dr. Shah take a more nuanced view of Alzheimer’s and other disorders such as Pick’s Disease. Causes and contributing conditions can range from neuropsychiatric factors, to vascular issues (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes), and even traumatic injury. Consequently, different patients can require different approaches.

A veteran of ten plus years at Carrier, Dr. Shah points out that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s often only manifest themselves decades after the pathological factors of the disease first settle in the brain and that unless early detection occurs, a diagnosis may not be made until after such behaviors as irritability, agitation
and depression become evident.

Referring to treatment guidelines established by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Dr. Shah discussed the fact that, while medical professionals are unable to cure Alzheimer’s, “we can see symptomatic stabilization” through supervised use of sleep aids, antidepressants and other medications. Non-pharmacological interventions, such as sleep/wake cycle monitoring, can aid in the assessment of the individual’s condition.

Also factoring into the discussion are the burdens placed upon the caregivers, including the legal and financial aspects of living wills, healthcare proxies, feeding tubes and other end-of-life decisions.

“People with dementia can lose the capacity to make any sort of decisions for themselves, and early detection can be the most important factor in their quality of life,” the doctor observes. “That’s why the earlier a person comes in to be assessed, the better it is for that individual, and for the people who care for them.”

– DR. SHAILAJA SHAH
“The earlier a person comes in to be assessed, the better it is for that individual and for the people who care for them.”

Working together as a state and a people to solve the heroin epidemic in New Jersey.

The statistics, laid out in a Powerpoint slideshow by detectives from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, were met with silence from their audience of high school students: A 45 percent increase in heroin-related deaths in suburban New Jersey within the past two years–a 24 percent jump in the last year alone. More than 10,000 bags of heroin are sold in the county each week. A one year total of 37 drug overdose deaths in Monmouth, 31 of them from heroin; a grim tally that outnumbered fatalities from homicides and vehicular accidents combined.

A follow up slide, showing the progressive ravages of heroin in the prematurely aged faces of young addicts, drew a collective “whoa” from the crowd, most of whom were contemporaries of the lost souls in the photos. And a student’s query as to whether the crisis was here, in the peaceful, suburban neighborhood where the school was located, was met with a terse and immediate reply.

“The answer is yes.”

For the past few years, school and community presentations like these have been part of the beat for law enforcement professionals on the state and county level. An effort that, to many, makes little headway against a raging and still-rising tide of “gateway” behaviors, easy access to cheap, plentiful, potently addictive drugs.

New Jersey is said to have the purest, deadliest heroin in the nation; a forward-thinking state agency is partnering with local governments and law enforcement to rethink the “cops lecturing kids” model, through a network of semi-autonomous, volunteer-driven municipal alliances; customized to the needs of their communities. In the words of Celina Gray, it’s the kind of true partnership in which “everyone’s really in on it…parents, physicians, teachers, civic leaders, the business community.”

“There’s no clear profile of the typical heroin user…everybody knows someone whose life has been affected, directly or indirectly, by heroin use,” says Gray, Acting Executive Director of the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA).

“There isn’t a state or a municipality that’s exempt from this issue…it crosses every demographic/socioeconomic line,” she adds, reinforcing the theme of the agency’s awareness campaign: Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate.

Rebecca Alfaro, Director of Prevention and Training for GCADA, observes that what’s now commonly known as The Heroin Epidemic “isn’t just an urban issue, a rural issue, or a suburban issue… the roots and particulars of the problem differ from town to town.”

The solution to this widespread crisis is an equally widespread Alliance Program–a $10 million initiative (funded through such means as drunk-driving fines) that serves over 530 municipalities statewide through more than 400 separate endeavors. It’s a program inspired by a successful community initiative addressing crack cocaine use–and it’s designed to identify and deliver resources to the places where young people are most at risk.

As Acting Director Gray states, “these alliances wrap the community in awareness…they’re a great way to join the effort, and proof that change can happen on the most local of levels.”

The program has its work cut out for itself; operating in a climate where a still-lingering stigma can impede real progress–and where the household medicine cabinet, stocked as it may be with Oxycontin and other powerful prescribed meds, can be a “gateway to hell” for users who “are starting at a younger and younger age. Nobody grows up saying they want to be an addict, but it’s so tough for someone under a certain age to battle this addiction.”

“An important step is that we are finally talking about addiction as a disease,” says Gray.
As Alfaro explains, the Alliance Program is not a top-down model, but “a volunteer-driven program, in which our volunteers are called ‘stakeholders’ for a reason—they’re fully engaged in the discussion and decisions, bridging the local community with the statewide program.”

Under the program, any municipality can get involved upon meeting a set of statewide guidelines and by contracting with their county (the state’s smallest boroughs and villages can pool and share their resources and energies under the umbrella of their local school districts).

Available statewide resources include the life-saving drug Narcan, which an increasing number of police officers statewide have been trained to administer to individuals who have overdosed.

Another development is the recent implementation of NJ’s Good Samaritan Law, granting immunity from prosecution to those who call 911 on behalf of a person in an overdose situation.

These tools, in addition to a new Prescription Monitoring Program, a Pain Management Council, and a Recovery High School facility now open in Union County, have placed New Jersey in the vanguard of actively addressing the problem of heroin use among the young, but they’re still not enough.

The GCADA staffers urge all members of the community to visit KnowAddiction.nj.gov to learn more about prevention, advocacy, recovery and treatment resources available statewide, and to visit GCADA.nj.gov for details on the Alliance Program, including contact information on County Coordinators for every area of the state.

Constructive Energies

There’s an 8,000 sq.ft. addition to the Blake Recovery Center™. Two all-new Acute Care Units for men and women, each with 12,000 sq.ft. of space that will provide a more comfortable and therapeutic environment for patients. A newly renovated and expanded 5,781 sq.ft. Admissions Center designed to streamline the patient access process.

Right now at the BRC, finishing touches are being applied to the new wing, with all staff and patients expected to move in by mid-February 2015. Renovations will commence on the existing portion of the building, scheduled to be completed by July 2015, for occupancy prior to Labor Day. A similar timetable is projected for the twin buildings of the expanded ACU.

As Carrier’s John Hausmann observes, the new buildings are merely the most visible of the dramatic changes on the Carrier campus in recent years; a transformation that includes such behind-the-scenes upgrades as a switch to LED lighting, extensive installation of solar panels, new boilers and refurbished cooling towers, and a major shift away from oil (with the exception of emergency generators) to natural gas, courtesy of a $2.1 million grant from PSE&G.

“If you haven’t seen what’s going on here at Carrier lately, you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” says Hausmann. “We’re better positioned than ever before to serve the community and move into the years ahead.”

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