Health Experts Gather to Discuss NJ's Opioid Crisis

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Health Experts Gather to Discuss NJ's Opioid Crisis

Dr. Kristine McCoy, Chair of VNA Health Group's Children and Family Health Institute, moderated the panel discussion 'Battling the Opioid Abuse Challenge'. Panelists included (from left to right) Tiffany Cummins, Medical Director, Preferred Behavioral Health, Jennifer Velez, President, Community and Behavioral Health, RWJBarnabas, Shannon Preston, Director, HIV Services, VNA Health Group Dr. Leslie Koblentz, Mental Health Physician, VNA of Ohio, Lead Psychiatrist and Medical Director, Mental Health Unit at Cuyahoga County Correction Health Program, Robert Kley, Vice President and COO, Mental Health Association in New Jersey


September 14, 2017 (Holmdel, NJ) Behavioral health experts from Washington D.C. and Cleveland, Ohio joined leaders from New Jersey at Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Health Group’s annual Health Leadership Summit to explore how home-based care can fill gaps in services for individuals with mental illness and addiction. Topics that were discussed included gaps in treatment and care services, the stigma associated with mental illness and opioid addiction, public policy, long-term effects to health from substance abuse and the role government, health care providers, payers and the pharmaceutical sector should play in combating opioid addiction.


In New Jersey, 60.8 percent of adults with mental illness did not receive mental health services and 60.9 percent of adults with depression did not receive treatment for their depression said Kris McLaughlin, Senior Nursing Advisor at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) during her keynote address. She also said 51,000 individuals in New Jersey had used heroin during 2014-2015, which was more than double the national average.


“When you look at the burden of behavioral health conditions, by 2030, behavioral health will be the worldwide driver of [health care] costs,” McLaughlin said, citing a report from the World Economic Forum. “Substance misuse screenings should be provided for everyone in every health care setting including primary and urgent care, psychiatric care, school health clinics and emergency care.”


Physicians and nurses from Cleveland based VNA of Ohio, which recently merged with VNA Health Group, spoke about their highly-regarded program that provides home- and community-based clinical services for individuals with mental illness and who are recovering from addiction.


“The important part of home-based mental health care is that we go where the patient is at,” said Thom Huggins, a Psychiatric Staff Nurse at VNA of Ohio. “Visiting them in their home setting gives a wealth of information about the patient that we can, in turn, give to their provider.”


VNA Health Group is exploring how community-based providers and health care organizations can fill gaps in care by providing prevention, screening and intervention services related to mental illness and addiction.


“VNA of Ohio has a cadre of twenty-five nurses with psychiatric certifications going out into their communities every day. We want to learn about their model and what VNA Health Group can do to help people in New Jersey who have mental illness live healthier lives,” said Steven Landers, President and CEO VNA Health Group.


“When CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] talks about community-based care that incentivizes people to stay at home, you have to have funding to pay for those services,” said Jennifer Velez, President, Community and Behavioral Health at RWJBarnabas and who served as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services from 2007 to 2015. “We have to be very intentional about policy decisions around mental illness and make the solutions multi-disciplinary.”


More than 300 attended the event held at the Navesink Country Club in Middletown. The event concluded with a presentation of VNA Health Group awards to the Monmouth Day Care Center, philanthropists Joan and Bob Rechnitz and longtime VNA Board Trustee, Dorothy Bowers.


The following panel of experts spoke at the event:


Aline Holmes, DNP, MSN, RN,
Senior Vice President, Clinical Affairs, NJ Hospital Association


Vera Sansone, LCSW
President and CEO, CPC Behavioral Healthcare


Lina Shihabuddin, MD
Chief Medical Officer, Behavioral Health Network,RWJBarnabas, Medical Director, VNAHG Hospice Services


Thom Huggins, RN
Psychiatric Staff Nurse, VNA of Ohio


Amy Silbaugh, RN, BSN
Manager of Clinical Development, VNA of Ohio


Kristine McCoy, MD, MPH
Chair, Children and Family Health Institute & Executive Director, Center for Primary Care & Public Health, VNA Health Group

Tiffany Cummins, MD
Medical Director, Preferred Behavioral Health


Jennifer Velez, JD
President, Community and Behavioral Health, RWJBarnabas


Shannon Preston, MSW, LSW
Director, HIV Community Services, VNA Health Group


Leslie Koblentz, MD, JD
Mental Health Physician, VNA of Ohio, Lead Psychiatrist and Medical Director, Mental Health Unit at Cuyahoga County Correction Health Program


Robert Kley,
Vice President and COO, Mental Health Association in New Jersey


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