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Can New Jersey Save Its Long-Neglected Psychiatric Hospitals?

The state DOH says it’s already acting on a multifaceted plan commissioned by Christie administration but only recently delivered

A recent report outlines an 18-month plan to overhaul all four of New Jersey’s state psychiatric hospitals.

The report was commissioned by former Gov. Chris Christie, who paid an outside consultant $750,000 to put it together. The result were just released, and they highlight what many in the mental health community already knew.

Many of the facilities’ problems stem from years of understaffing and underfunding. After the Christie administration put a hiring freeze in place, accounts circulated about violent assaults on the rise and a severe shortage of psychiatrists and healthcare workers. Ann Klein Forensic Center in West Trenton was on the verge of losing accreditation. Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany was no better.

But according to the state Health Department, key changes are already in place, including $23 million for capital improvements and technology upgrades; the hiring of 220 new employees — 90 at Ann Klein Forensic Center and another 37 at Greystone Park; chief medical officers in place at all four hospitals; a 30 percent reduction in violent assaults to patients and staff across all systems in the first quarter of the year; and discharging 60 patients back to the community since January.

“Our primary focus is really developing a single system of care with shared consistent practices and protocols,” said Deborah Hartel, deputy commissioner of integrated health services for the New Jersey DOH.

Read the full story on NJTV News Online, a content partner of NJ Spotlight.

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