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Integrity House sees hospital role as timely in fighting opioid crisis

October 12, 2017
by Gary A. Enos, Contributing Editor
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As one of a trio of new operators of New Jersey's largest hospital, Newark-based addiction treatment provider Integrity House sees great opportunity to bring a chronic disease model of care to life as an opioid epidemic rages.

Integrity House president and CEO Robert Budsock says that while there are no immediate plans to alter the composition of detox, short-term rehabilitation and outpatient services at the former Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus, enhancements will be considered over time. With the new operations team having taken over Oct. 1, “We just started getting under the hood last week,” Budsock says.

Partnering to assume daily management of the county-owned acute and long-term care hospital are Integrity House, Bergen County-based community behavioral health organization CarePlus New Jersey, and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. County officials have even unveiled a new name for the hospital: New Bridge Medical Center, and the county has committed $50 million toward capital improvements to the facility.

The new operators have formed a nonprofit entity called Care Plus Bergen Inc. More than a year ago, county leaders began the search to replace a for-profit entity that had run the hospital under a 19-year contract.

The new operating partners have worked together on numerous initiatives in the past, with Integrity House and Rutgers establishing a psychiatric residency program and Integrity House and CarePlus New Jersey teaming up to secure a federal grant for integrated behavioral health and primary care services. Budsock sees integrated care as an area where the hospital's new operators are poised to take a quantum leap.

“For everyone who enters detox there, we will ensure that they are offered and encouraged to receive continuing care for their chronic disease,” says Budsock.

The new nonprofit partnership will lease the hospital from the Bergen County Improvement Authority.

Building on existing base

The hospital currently operates 84 detox beds, 40 short-term rehab beds, and outpatient substance use treatment for adults and adolescents. Medication-assisted treatment already is part of the service mix, and Integrity House will be looking to expand that, given the high risk of fatal overdose that today's opioid-dependent patients face.

Budsock, who this weekend will reach his 33rd anniversary at Integrity House, has seen numerous drug epidemics during his career, but considers the present one particularly deadly and requiring the most comprehensive approach possible.

Recovery support groups already are brought into the Paramus hospital setting, and Budsock indicates he hopes to supplement these offerings with other enhancements in areas such as mindfulness and mind-body interventions.

He adds that it will be important to ensure continuity of care and an integrated approach regardless of where in the system the individual with substance use problems presents (detox, the hospital emergency room, an acute-care bed from a physician referral, etc.).

Integrity House, which next year will commemorate its 50th year of operation, was a recipient of a 2017 Outstanding Clinical Care Award from Behavioral Healthcare Executive sister publication Addiction Professional. The award honored Integrity House's residential treatment program for adolescent males.