St. Mary’s closes psych unit

12 12 2008

PASSAIC — St. Mary’s Hospital officials said Thursday that they closed the inpatient psychiatric unit at 211 Pennington Ave. and transferred five remaining patients to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville.

Hospital officials originally announced they would close the 38-bed facility in September as a cost-saving strategy. Mental health advocates who feared the closure would mean a decline in services for mental health patients protested the decision. St. Mary’s was the only place in Passaic County where patients could be involuntarily committed. Advocates also worried that Clara Maass, 11 miles from Paterson, would be too far for patients.

On Thursday, officials from St. Mary’s and Clara Maass sought to reassure the public that mental health services would not dramatically change.

“There really is no difference in the care that they will receive,” Tom Quinn, vice president of Behavioral Health for St. Mary’s, said in an interview Thursday. “It’s just going to be delivered in a different county.”

MaryAnn Donahue, a spokeswoman for Clara Maas, a division of St. Barnabas Medical Services, said the facility was looking forward to the transfer of patients.

“We really believe we can offer patients the next level of service,” she said.

St. Mary’s officials said that despite the inpatient psychiatric unit’s closure, 12 other psychiatric programs would remain open, including the permanent adult residences at the YMCA, the Adult Patient Hospital Program and psychiatric emergency services.

St. Mary’s will still be the state-designated screening center for psychiatric patients in Passaic County. But after initial screening, patients seeking to stay at a hospital for short-term care would be referred to Clara Maass. NorthJersey.com

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