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Profile: Healing the Minds and Bodies of New Jersey’s Children

Gary Rosenberg is one of the primary drivers of a new program that pairs child psychiatrists with pediatricians in a proven-successful collaboration

Who he is: Gary Rosenberg, a child psychiatrist who helped found the New Jersey Primary Care Child Psychiatry Collaboration, a state-funded program that pairs psychiatrists with pediatricians to help reach the one-in-five youngsters who also suffers from mental health issues.

Hometown, plus: Grew up in Fair Lawn, now lives in Summit. Rosenberg is married with two adult children and two grandchildren.

Why he’s newsworthy: Rosenberg is one of the primary drivers behind the collaboration, which doctors said has shown initial success. A pilot program testing the collaboration received $1.4 million in state funding last year and is poised for expansion under the $2.4 million included in the current budget; the administration chose not to include any funding for the coming fiscal year, which begins in July.

Now the physician is battling to ensure that funding is maintained, if not expanded. He has contacted media outlets, spoken up during public sessions at healthcare forums, and recently launched a petition urging Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen) to take the battle to Trenton. Rosenberg has worked closely with Gordon for years on the project and last week the senator said he was talking to Democratic leaders about the need to include the funding again in the fiscal year 2017 budget.

Professional development: After graduating Fair Lawn High School, Rosenberg attended Columbia University, then SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine. Following a few years of training in family medicine and then adult psychiatry, he returned to school for child psychiatry at what was then Rutgers Medical School, in Piscataway.

Over the years, Rosenberg worked at various psychiatric hospitals, medical centers, universities, and managed-care companies, where he oversaw psychiatric care. He served as a medical director at both Saint Claire’s Health System and Bergen Regional Medical Center. He also maintained a private practice in Summit, which was managed by his wife. He is now associate medical director at Optum, the health insurance company based in New York.

Why the collaboration? Rosenberg is passionate about the work done by the collaboration program he helped build -- and alarmed by the thought that it might run out of funding next year. It is fueled in large part by his desire to see a healthcare system that better integrates physical and emotional care. In 2010 he led a task force that developed the program based on a successful model in Massachusetts. He connected with Gordon -- a fellow graduate of Fair Lawn High -- to try and implement a program statewide. To their surprise, instead Gov. Chris Christie included funding in the FY15 budget for a pilot program in southern and central New Jersey.

The program helps pediatricians, the first doctors to treat most kids, identify signs of mental distress and connect young patients with proper treatment. It funds training for the pediatricians and pays for psychiatrists who can offer consultations or see patients in person. Early results suggests hundreds of children have been helped since the collaboration was established last year. With the expansion, the program should reach children in eight counties. Rosenberg would like to see it fully funded and extend statewide.

What you may not know about him: Rosenberg -- and his family -- are relative fitness nuts. He was state champion in the mile while in high school and an Ivy-league champion in cross country at Columbia. His personal email address still begins “garyruns.” But five decades on the road left him with hip problems and a few years ago – about the same time he was inducted into the Fair Lawn High School Athletic Hall of Fame – he had to change course. He now bikes regularly and just started using an ElliptiGO -- a cross between a bike and an elliptical trainer.

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