Program integrates mental and primary healthcare services Coordinated care more effective than treating each illness in a vacuum

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PARAMUS – Treating a person’s mental and physical health simultaneously improves overall well-being and recovery from both types of illnesses, a state mental health official said today while visiting a health service agency awarded for providing high quality integrated care.

“Evidence shows that treating the whole person through an Integrated Care is more much effective than treating each illness separately in a vacuum,” said Lynn Kovich, Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the state Department of Human Services.

“CarePlus brings professionals from both the primary healthcare and the mental health systems together to focus on both aspects of an individual’s well-being,” Kovich said while visiting the agency’s headquarters at Valley Road Plaza. “Isolating each illness and its treatment is less effective than this holistic approach.”

Kovich said she expects to see more strategic collaborations in behavioral and primary healthcare throughout the state and the country and also noted that studies indicate that people with a serious mental illness are likely to die 25 years younger than others.

Care Plus NJ Inc. has been providing comprehensive psychiatric care in Bergen County for more than 30 years with private and public funding, including allocations administered through DMHAS.

The nonprofit organization operates at 25 sites in Bergen, Essex, Passaic, Hudson and Union counties, and offers 55 distinct programs and services, including: residential, outpatient and acute mental health treatment, screening services, and supportive housing and employment programs. Last year, it served more than 20,000 consumers, 80 percent of whom had a mental illness.

For more than three years, it has been using a $500,000 annual Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to design and coordinate holistic healthcare by agencies licensed by DMHAS and the state Department of Health to meet consumers’ needs.

“It is our mission at Care Plus to provide both the quality and variety of services that will enable our clients to meet a positive outcome,” stated Joe Masciandaro, President and CEO of Care Plus.

For the third consecutive year, Care Plus in 2011 ranked number one in the Mental Health Corporations of America, Inc. (MHCA) Customer Satisfaction Survey.

In an additional move to enhance coordinated care among the continuum of consumer healthcare services, Care Plus last month announced a new affiliation with Turning Point, a Paterson-based drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, to integrate care for people who have a mental illness as well as a substance abuse disorder.

Six out of 10 people with a substance abuse disorder also suffer from some form of mental illness, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).