St Mary’s is trying to close the very well needed psych unit.

19 08 2008

Editors notePCJN has learnt that the St Marys psych unit is very well needed. And also would like the resident’s of passaic county to know that, the psych unit last week was completely full. So where would these 38 beds go? Also many of the Patients at st Mary’s psych facility are voluntarily going to the psych facility however if they have to travel they probably would not go. And many of the low income families would not be able to visit there loved ones. Which is very important for such patients

 The overburdened mental health system in North Jersey is closely monitoring the proposed closure of the 38-bed psychiatric unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic County, assessing the potential domino effect on other providers if the state approves the closure, officials said yesterday.

Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pequannock and Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville are two likely destinations for many patients, said officials, who noted such a move would make it less-than-convenient for some Passaic County families to visit loved ones who are hospitalized.

St. Mary’s has a pending application with the state Department of Health and Senior Services to close its 40-year-old psychiatric unit. Hospital officials said they don’t have adequate funds to continue the operation.

State officials yesterday confirmed the closure application, saying it is under review.

“We are looking at the application, have gone back and forth with them on possibilities,” said Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, who added her agency is consulting with the state Division of Mental Health for guidance.

Assistant Human Services Commissioner Kevin Martone, the state’s mental health chief, said yesterday he favors keeping the psychiatric beds in Passaic County, if possible.

“This is not the best situation,” said Martone. “To the extent possible, we want people treated as close as possible to their home communities, which is best for their treatment and recovery.”

Martone said an assessment of the region’s psychiatric care needs has been done. Talks are being held on possible solutions to the potential loss of the St. Mary’s beds, he said.

Saint Mary’s Hospital is a short-term facility located in the city of Passaic and run by the Sisters of Charity, a Catholic order based in Convent Station. It moved last year from its long-time site on Pennington Avenue to a new complex on the Boulevard in Passaic. But the psychiatric unit remained behind, with employees told the hospital cannot afford some $20 million to relocate the unit to the new hospital.

Erik Ramos, a hospital spokesman, said the original plan was to sell the old hospital and use some of the proceeds to finance the move of the mental health unit. But a poor real estate market has hampered those plans, he said.

The possible closure of St. Mary’s psychiatric unit is being watched carefully in the mental health community, which is struggling to provide more community beds and short-term placement options for patients.

“We are very aware of the situation,” said Mary Rich, chief nurse executive at Chilton Memorial Hospital, which is situated in Morris County. “We have the capacity to take some of their patients, but we only have a voluntary unit … can only take people who commit themselves.”

Joanne Green, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Passaic County, said her group is lobbying to keep the psychiatric beds in her county. They have contacted families of patients to alert them to the situation and enlist their support. NJ.com/PCJN

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