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Connections Winter 2017

The opioid epidemic. Cyber-bullying. A hyper-competitive culture. Pressure to succeed.

Young people today face enormous challenges in daily life; challenges that would have been unimaginable just a generation ago. Issues ranging from abuse or neglect at home, to living in a world of life-changing disasters and life-threatening acts of aggression, can leave adolescents feeling overwhelmed, unprepared for the path ahead, and with a sense of hopelessness that may lead to substance abuse, depression, running away, or suicide attempts.

For teenagers, the journey through adolescence has had a profound effect upon family dynamics — and according to Anthony Marino, M.D., 21st-century pressures “make things even more difficult, on top of the stress parents already experience just trying to raise a child.”

A specialist in psychiatry and neurology, Dr. Marino joined the Carrier Clinic® team in 1995 as Chief of Adolescent Medical Services shortly thereafter. He oversees the medical treatment program at East Mountain Youth Lodge, Carrier Clinic®’s on-campus residential facility for young people dealing with psychiatric and emotional issues.

Indicators of trouble range from changes in sleep or eating habits, to becoming more impulsive or more isolated and withdrawn. As Dr. Marino points out, “Where it gets really serious is when there’s evidence of suicidal thoughts and self-destructive behaviors …when a young person becomes so upset that they cut themselves or hurt themselves, then the situation needs to be addressed by a professional.”

In a recent statement, Carrier Clinic® CEO and president Donald Parker reported a 26 percent increase in adolescent and teen admissions within the past year. This speaks not only to the demands of the opioid crisis and other pressures, but also to Carrier Clinic®’s enhanced ability to accommodate patients between ages 13 to 18. “We are almost always at capacity,” observes Dr. Marino, who also serves as Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Carrier Clinic®. “The inpatient unit has 36 beds for adolescents, with which we tend to run ‘full census’.”

As active as Carrier Clinic®’s facilities have been, the level of care remains among the best, with a direct care staff member for every four to five adolescents, and a treatment team that includes licensed clinical social workers, registered nurses, substance abuse, and residential counselors.

It’s all part of a “mission to create, promote and maintain a healing environment;” one in which “we invite teens to put aside their past survival skills and learn new ways of coping and self-expression.” Carrier Clinic®’s comprehensive medical and counseling components are enhanced by full indoor and outdoor sports/recreational facilities, chapel, hiking trails and “adventure-based” activities. Treatment is further augmented with art therapy, equine therapy, pre-vocational training and workshops in social skills. Adolescents can continue their education onsite at East Mountain School.

Acknowledging that “there are so many external and internal factors that affect their lives,” Dr. Marino and the Carrier Clinic® team follow a respectful, caring approach to adolescents. “It’s more important to listen than to lecture, and to be as honest as possible…to let them know that things will be as good as we can work together to make them…to create in advance a supportive environment that lets kids express their fears…to let them know that we’re here for them.”

a Walk of Hope

It’s a seasonal highlight that grows bigger each year — and on September 16th, more than 600 walkers (and pets) hit the paths of Carrier Clinic®’s Belle Mead campus for the 7th annual Walk of Hope fundraiser. Thirty-seven teams, representing dozens of community groups and sporting names like Stigma Stompers, “A” Team, and G.E.M.S., raised over $60,000 toward Carrier Clinic®’s initiatives (including an expanded animal therapy program), as CEO Parker updated everyone on exciting advances in brain science, and the practice of compassionate care.

A Day on the Links

On October 2nd, the annual Carrier Golf Classic took to a new course at Basking Ridge Country Club, in a rescheduled outing that was blessed with perfect weather, and a turnout of 90 participants. During the event, which raised more than $51,000, Trish Toole shared a video — produced by East Mountain Youth Lodge residents — that boasted original music and artwork by the students.

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