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Supporting Those Who Support Others: National Caregivers Month

Supporting Those Who Support Others: National Caregivers Month
By: Hannah Blank, MA, MSW, LSW

As 2019 came to a close, many of us attended 1920s themed parties and celebrations, welcoming the New Year.  We cheered and danced way past midnight, as pearls draped our necks, feathers poked from our heads, fedoras were tipped, and suspenders made their debut once more.  With high hopes of a fresh start, new 2020 calendars and organizational tools were purchased. This is going to be my year!” we exclaimed, shared, and reposted.  A few short months into 2020, we were strongly reminded that hindsight is in fact 2020.

Amidst all the changes to our lifestyles, many barriers have certainly been met.  Our plans for a beautiful and prosperous new beginning, may have been derailed and filled with grief and loss, sickness, unemployment and financial difficulties, poor mental health, and a multitude of other obstacles.  The words “unprecedented”, “essential”, and “our new normal” have taken on new and distinguished meanings. Paper products became a hot commodity and virtual platforms have become a true necessity for communication.

Once Halloween decorations, costumes, and candy is marked down to half the price, winter holiday decorations immediately take their place.  This rapid change could bring an even larger amount of stressors to our lives, not allowing any time to adjust to wearing jackets again each time we step outside.

Perhaps you’re wondering how you can safely celebrate the holidays with your family without putting yourself or anyone else at risk of falling ill. You may have even become progressively troubled over the costs of gifts because $100 is the new $20 bill.  As the months have rapidly passed us by, it has become increasingly difficult to find time for ourselves which ultimately inhibits our ability to be supportive to those we love and who need us the most.

November is truly a special time; it is National Family Caregivers Month.  During the start of the “Season of Giving”, it has become our goal to pay recognition and gratitude to our patients’ families and support systems.  Family support systems are crucial to the continued efforts in both sobriety and mental health stability for those we serve.  Being a caregiver, support system, or even a shoulder to lean on can be very challenging, and your dedication has not gone unnoticed. 

You are appreciated.

If this year has taught us any great lesson, it’s to learn how to utilize our time while we are home more hours each day.  What better way is there to spend that extra hour (or two) you have during quarantine, than on self-care?  You deserve this time for yourself. Read that book you’ve been putting off for months now. Take the bubble bath you’ve been talking about for weeks.  Dress up in your 2020 NYE attire and have a dance party (pearls, fedoras, and feathers required!).  Head over to your favorite park for an afternoon stroll.  Do what you want to do; this is your time for you.

How can we care for someone else if we cannot care for ourselves first?

Like our physical health, our mental health wellness is just as important. Caring for our own needs first can help build stronger relationships with those who need our support. Our admissions nurse, Max Zandstein, MSN shared that, “The work of a caregiver is difficult and can be emotionally draining, especially if the caregiver isn’t able to cope well with the stressors of their involvement.  When you’re putting someone else’s health and wellness above your own, you tend to give up the ability and awareness to feel good for yourself.” Practicing self-care, that is, being attentive to your own needs and doing the things that bring you joy, peace, and relaxation will help you maintain your overall health and wellness each day.

To every caregiver, support system, shoulder to cry on- We appreciate you this month, next month, the month after that, the month after that… And… every single day.  Thank you for all that you do.  You have a huge job and we acknowledge that it comes with many obstacles and emotions, but know that your dedication is so valuable. You are doing your best, and your best is working.

Don’t forget to take time for yourself.

You are worth it.

Summit Oaks Hospital Designated an Aetna Institute of Quality®

Summit Oaks Hospital will been designated an Aetna Institute of Quality® for Behavioral Health —Substance Abuse.

Aetna makes information about the quality and cost of health care services available to its members to help them make informed decisions about their health care needs. In line with this goal, Aetna recognizes facilities in its network that offer specialized clinical services for certain health conditions. Facilities are selected for exemplifying:

  • Excellence in care
  • Commitment to continuous improvement
  • Meeting certain standards of quality
  • Cost efficiency

Aetna recognizes facilities that have earned this designation by identifying them in the directory as an Institute of Quality provider. This designation helps members choose consistent high quality care.

“We are truly honored to be designated as an Aetna Institute of Quality,” said Ross Friedman, CEO of Summit Oaks Hospital.  “We make a difference in people’s lives and create a culture of healing through our compassionate care. Our commitment is to deliver the highest quality treatment. We instill hope every day, utilize best practices, and provide superior care that has become the heart and core of our mission. I am grateful to be a part of an organization comprised of physicians, nurses, clinicians, staff, and students that work in health care for the same reason that I do, to make a difference.”

Summit Oaks Hospital is a 122-bed acute behavioral health facility that is located in Summit, NJ.  We offer effective care through our specialized inpatient and outpatient treatment programs:  Adult Psychiatric Program, Adult Co-Occurring Program, Adult Drug & Alcohol Detoxification Program, Adult Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Program (short-term) and a Child/Adolescent Psychiatric Program as well as a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).

Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month: Breaking the Stigma Together

Each month we recognize, observe and celebrate all of the designated National Awareness Months in unique and different ways. Our focus shifts from topic to topic, by addressing mental health and substance use disorders. In doing so, we engage ongoing discussions with our communities and among ourselves to find new ways to break the negative stigmas attached to seeking treatment. This month, like many of our partners and provider networks, we are recognizing Suicide Awareness and Prevention with hopes that we can provide an opportunity for comfort and healing to those who may need it now and for those who may need our support in the future.

The process of change can be intimidating, and with the arrival of September we approach a time for remarkable transitions.  A new school year begins, sweaters are needed again, and unexpected holiday decorations start flooding department stores. These alterations to our daily activities can be anxiety-provoking and may lead to negative thinking patterns. Left untreated, these thoughts may worsen. They may build upon one another, stacking up and burying the first thought deeper and deeper. As these negative thoughts continue to build, worsening symptoms may arise.  All of this negative thinking can become so problematic that it interferes with our daily activities, and we may not be able to function as we once could. Most concerning, such intense growth in thought patterns may lead to concerns over our own safety.

Making a decision to enter any type of mental health treatment is intimidating. The hardest part can be picking up the phone and making the first call.  Sure, you can scour the internet and research countless therapists, treatment centers, and doctors in your area.  After spending an hour scrolling through your options, you may have comprised a list of questions like, “What is the difference between an LCSW and an LPC?” “What is a ‘level of care’?”  “Which type of doctor prescribes medications again?” “What’s it really like as a patient there?” “Is the food good?”

As mental health professionals, we want to help you.  It is our passion and commitment to lead you toward a path that is full of hope, happiness and fulfillment. We appreciate how the journey to recovery is not easy, however we have the tools for you to succeed. You, your family members, and support networks are not alone in navigating this maze of the mental health treatment world. We are with you every step of the way, and we strive to make your experience (whether it’s your first, second, or eleventh time in treatment) comfortable and filled with inspiration and compassion.

To ease the discomforts or feelings of unease for our future patients, families, and support systems, it is reassuring to learn from others’ experiences. Many of our former patients have shared personal messages of encouragement, with hopes in providing comfort to those seeking and considering treatment.  Here’s what they had to say:

“If you ask for help, you can save yourself. Your future will be like walking on the red carpet.”

“Take a moment, take a deep breath, and know that you are not going through this alone.  Never stop loving yourself; you are worth the fight.”

“Read my words. There is hope. Hang in there. Stay and get the best of what is offered to you. Listen and learn. I have faith in you.”

Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month provides us with a strong reminder of the importance of education, communication and support networks.  Family members and support systems of those who are suffering should never be left behind. We hear you, and we are here for you too.  Learning from others’ experiences provides a reminder that your treatment journey does not have to be traveled alone.

There is no shame in pursuing professional help. The negative stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment is a battle worth fighting. We must start with conversations with one another, sharing words of inspiration and hope, and supporting those we care for during their times of need.  In doing so, we can save another life. We have to break the negative stigma and we can do this together.

At Summit Oaks Hospital, we are here for you, for your family, for your friends, and for the community.   Join us in this conversation today, tomorrow and every day thereafter.

Summit Oaks Hospital Launches Telehealth Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Technology Platform Enables Patients to Receive Treatment Remotely

Summit Oaks Hospital has launched its new Telehealth service, enabling virtual visits for patients to participate remotely in their Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). Telehealth allows patients to receive high-quality assessments and care from a clinician, from the comfort of their home. Telehealth utilizes a user-friendly, HIPAA-compliant video platform that fosters connectivity and supports patient and clinician interaction, including assessment, advice, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions. Accessible using a phone, tablet or computer, Telehealth connects patients and clinicians over electronic means, with video just as they would in-person.

Summit Oaks Hospital’s outpatient programs are comprehensive treatment programs that are designed to assist patients in developing a plan for physical, mental, and spiritual recovery. Our multidisciplinary teams take a collaborative approach to help ensure that each patient receives the individualized treatment they need.

The IOP provides treatment for people struggling with Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder. Patients participate in group therapy for three hours a day, three days per week and is offered in the daytime or evening. The partial hospitalization program is designed for patients who need more intensive therapy and is offered five days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

For information about scheduling appointments, or to make a referral, please contact our Admissions Department at 800-753-5223.

Summit Oaks Hospital Responds to the Mental Health Crisis and Increased Need for Behavioral Health Treatment Services

The coronavirus pandemic that our world is facing has left many members of our communities facing a severe and concerning mental health crisis.  Recent data reports have indicated an urgent and crucial need for mental health services to care for those who have been affected by the implications of Covid-19, and for those who have experienced worsening symptoms.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC 2020), the Household Pulse Survey that was conducted in conjunction with census reporting, identified almost 40% of adults in New Jersey are experiencing anxiety and/or depressive symptoms.  These alarming rates, which have significantly increased since the 2019 reports, provide mental health professionals with further insight into the mental health crisis our community is facing, and the increased need for treatment services.

Chief Medical Officer and award-winning psychiatrist at Summit Oaks Hospital located in Summit, NJ, Dr. Mariam Bekhit, shared insight into the importance of emotional well-being, as well as tips to use that help find strength in ourselves during some of our toughest times.  Dr. Bekhit shares,

“Our communities have sustained a considerable amount of discord and negative impacts from multiple areas, though where you can see damage and pain, there is also strength and resilience. Covid-19 has been an unprecedented occurrence with significant emotional and financial implications.  We lost whole families at a time, employment, health; some of us may have even lost our strength to fight.  From the debris of these struggles, comes the strengthening of communities that are pulling together in solidarity to assist one another in need.  Life matters, and without the availabilities of living our lives without closed borders and practicing our normal daily routines of going to work and school, our emotional well-being has suffered a profound influence.  The team at Summit Oaks Hospital supports and values one another.  Because of the strength in this connection and ongoing teamwork, we are stronger together so we can be here for you.”

The dedicated and passionate team at Summit Oaks Hospital values and encourages individuality.  We pride ourselves in our unwavering support and encouragement of all our patients to become their best selves, while supporting each and every individual’s differences.  Our team at Summit Oaks is exceptionally proud to be diverse, practices recognition, and celebrates all of our multi-cultural differences.  In our celebration of equality and cultural awareness, we challenge the stigmas of mental health treatment.  Together, we are one team with the same goals and mission: to improve the quality of life of those affected by mental illness and/or substance use.

During the coronavirus outbreak, Summit Oaks Hospital quickly responded with the creation of a taskforce that devoted their time and efforts in maintaining health and safety for our staff and clients.  In doing so, we have maintained limited exposure and the spreading of the highly contagious virus.  Following CDC and state guidelines, Summit Oaks Hospital has been successful in the continuous availability of mental health and addiction treatment services throughout the pandemic.  We recognize that our community relies on the services and programs we provide, therefore additional safety measures have been taken to address health concerns and further exposure.  Summit Oaks Hospital continues to practice all health and safety measures, as identified by the CDC, in all areas of our facility.

Summit Oaks Hospital is one of the longest standing behavioral health hospitals in New Jersey.  For nearly 100 years, we have been providing mental health and addiction treatment to those in and outside of our community.  We pride ourselves in being a place of compassion and comfort, where various forms of therapies are designed to address individual needs.

Our 122-bed inpatient facility offers mental health and addiction treatment services for adults, adolescents, and children.  Our short-term stays provide collaborative treatment strategies with teams that are comprised of physicians, nurses, licensed therapists, and supportive staff.  Various group therapies, led by our licensed therapists, are offered multiple times per day.  These groups include, but are not limited to, psychoeducation, therapeutic processing, development of coping skills and strategies, yoga, art, and other recreational activities.

Following an inpatient stay, multiple group therapy intensive outpatient programs and partial hospitalization programs are available.  These three- and five-day per week options are conveniently held at our Prospect Street location in Summit, NJ. In 2019, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) recognized Summit Oaks Hospital as a Blue Distinction® Center for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery (BDC Substance Use Treatment and Recovery) – a new designation under the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program that identifies facilities commitment to delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the community and leading accreditation and quality organizations.

Ross Friedman, the CEO of Summit Oaks Hospital shares, “Our commitment is to deliver the highest quality treatment in a secure, therapeutic environment, with compassion and respect for all patients and loved ones. We collaborate with our patients every day to earn their trust and provide exceptional care. Our multidisciplinary teams use best practices to provide superior care that has become the heart and core of our mission”.

Summit Oaks Hospital has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s annual review of “Best Hospitals”, is licensed by the state of New Jersey, and is fully accredited by The Joint Commission.

Choosing the right environment that best supports you and/or your loved one’s needs can be a challenging decision.  Our healthcare heroes are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to answer any questions you may have.  We want the start of your journey to a healthier lifestyle to begin with ease and compassionate care.


Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

During National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in July, the multicultural team of providers at Summit Oaks Hospital is proud to celebrate, learn, educate, and spread awareness for ourselves and our community members about the importance of mental health wellness among minority groups.  Breaking the negative stigma associated with seeking mental health and addiction treatment is our goal in the continued efforts in providing a supportive environment for those who are in need, however we recognize that it starts with a conversation.

According to the American Psychological Association (2016), mental health providers may underdiagnose disorders in minority and underprivileged groups as a result of a “lack of cultural understanding, language differences, stigma of mental illness, and cultural presentation of symptoms.”  These growing concerns enhance our increased awareness of our community’s needs, so that minority groups may feel comfort in seeking mental health treatment when they need it during some of their most challenging times.  In the 2015 APA Census Report, it was reported that 31% of Blacks and Hispanics and 22% of Asians had mental health illnesses and did not seek any treatment.  These rates are incredibly alarming, therefore we must continue our efforts to learn from one another and practice in the engagement of open discussions.

At Summit Oaks Hospital, we interviewed some of our team members who shared their personal experiences within their own cultures and backgrounds as it relates to minority mental health treatment.  Here’s what they had to say:

Maxine Alonso, Human Resources Generalist shared,

“Growing up in a Cuban-American family had a few realities that came with it. For example, boys were given more privileges than girls and expected to do less chores. Amongst these old-school realities, mental health was considered a taboo topic. My relatives felt that mental health was made up or was a possession by an evil spirit. The common consensus among the family when someone was depressed, anxious, or even delusional was that the individual needed to ‘get over it,’ ‘man up,’ or ‘move on’. Mental health was never discussed in my household. As a Psychology major in my undergraduate years, I received a lot of disapproval from different family members. My father largely disapproved of my interest in the field, as he felt it was a ‘made up science.’”

Licensed social worker, Alidis Vicente shared that,

“My Puerto Rican family and culture did not experience mental health in the traditional way that it is experienced here in the States. Medication is certainly not encouraged for physical or mental health. Looking back, I can say strong mental health is perceived as a sign of strength. We are a resilient culture, so a certain level of perceived mental toughness is expected. In my culture, if people have difficulties with their mental health, it may be displayed somatically, and then addressed with a more herbal, folkloric approach.  We called it ataque de nervios, an attack of nerves. Also, if someone’s behaviors changed drastically, it was sometimes attributed to mal de ojo, the evil eye.

I focus my work on children and adolescents. Many of my clients grapple with building bridges between their family’s culture of origin and their unique experiences as first, second, or even third generation ethnic and/or racial minorities. I strongly believe that as clinicians, we can help our minority clients with a combination of cultural humility, cultural competence, and flexibility. We also have to understand that language plays an important role. Not all of our clinical mental health terminology is easily translatable in some language. It is our ethical responsibility as practitioners to proactively learn how mental health is experienced in diverse cultures so we can find effective ways to address gaps in communication.”

Eve Barnes, Director of Risk Management and Performance Improvement, also shared her perspectives on minority mental health awareness.

“I studied socio-economic issues, the legal system, and related social topics throughout my graduate and undergraduate studies. I started my career in mental health in an urban area. Learning about the disparities in this country helped me to understand the ‘why’ when treating mental health issues in this population. You realize that minorities in these areas have a whole slew of factors that impact their mental health that other people don’t have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I think understanding the factors that created these types of environments is crucial if you want to help people. I learned that you have to be cognizant of your biases and make sure you aren’t judging people based on your own values and upbringing. It’s easier to blame the individual rather than to really take a look at the system that created the factors that are impacting minorities.

Growing up, there wasn’t an overtly negative perception per se, but not a positive one either. Adults would say things like ‘he has issues’ or ‘she’s a little off’ when discussing someone who may have had a mental illness, but they would not really get into detail or explain. If a child behaved in a certain way it was attributed to attention seeking behaviors or just being a ‘bad kid’. Saying ‘they need help’ or ‘so-and-so needs to see a psychiatrist’ was an insult.  Now, as people become more educated on mental illness and symptoms, there’s a much more empathetic approach and discussion.”

About Summit Oaks Hospital

Summit Oaks Hospital is honored to be a provider of quality mental health and addiction services to all members of our community, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and background.  We continuously practice and take part in the celebration of our differences, and encourage constant learning and acceptance of one another.  Join us in this conversation about minority mental health awareness, not just this month, but every month thereafter.  This ongoing discussion has great potential in improving public awareness and access to mental health and addiction treatment so that we can fight the stigma together.

Summit Oaks Hospital is licensed by the state of New Jersey, and is fully accredited by The Joint Commission.

Source: Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations. (2017, December 19). Retrieved July 7, 2020, from https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/education/mental-health-facts


Summit Oaks Hospital Designated as a Blue Distinction® Center for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery

November 2019, Summit, NJ – To help patients suffering from a substance use disorder find facilities that deliver quality treatment and care, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) recognizes Summit Oaks Hospital as one of the first facilities to receive the Blue Distinction® Center for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery (BDC Substance Use Treatment and Recovery) designation – a new designation under the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program.

Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated facilities that show a commitment to delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the community and leading accreditation and quality organizations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, which highlights the seriousness of the opioid epidemic and how critical it is for patients to receive comprehensive, meaningful care. The BDC Substance Use Treatment and Recovery program requires designated facilities to deliver coordinated multidisciplinary care to patients and provide timely access to quality medical and psychosocial care in all phases of treatment. Designated facilities must also offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a way to treat opioid addiction that includes a medication component and behavioral therapy.

“We are honored to have been recognized by Horizon and designated as a Blue Distinction Center. We are proud of our Substance Use Treatment Teams on their commitment to assisting individuals in long term recovery,” said Ross Friedman, CEO of Summit Oaks Hospital. “Summit Oaks Hospital is a place of compassion and healing, we strive to make a difference in people’s lives everyday which is reflected in our exceptional patient outcomes. Our hospital and outpatient services continue to grow and are full of caring staff that are patient and dependable.”

According to Suzanne Kunis, Vice-President of Behavioral Health at Horizon BCBSNJ, “Horizon is committed to assuring that all of our members have access to the highest quality treatment for their medical and behavioral health conditions. The Blue Distinction Center is one way that can help consumers identify quality substance use treatment providers. We congratulate Summit Oaks Hospital on being among the first to achieve this distinction and we look forward to continuing our work together to improve our members’ lives through quality substance use treatment.”

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality specialty care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacements, maternity care, spine surgery, substance use treatment and recovery, and transplants, while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver.

Research for many programs shows that, compared to other providers, those designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients.
For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, visit www.bcbs.com/bluedistinction.

Summit Oaks Hospital is a 122-bed acute behavioral health facility that is located in Summit NJ. We offer effective care through our specialized inpatient and outpatient treatment programs: Adult Psychiatric Program, Adult Co-Occurring Program, Adult Drug & Alcohol Detoxification Program, Adult Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program (short-term) and a Child/Adolescent Psychiatric Program as well as a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). For more information, check out our website at www.summitoakshospital.com or call us at 1-800-753-5223.

About Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the state’s oldest and largest health insurer is a tax-paying, not-for-profit health service corporation, providing a wide array of medical, dental, vision and prescription insurance products and services. Horizon BCBSNJ is leading the transformation of health care in New Jersey by working with doctors and hospitals to deliver innovative, patient-centered programs that reward the quality, not quantity, of care patients receive. Learn more at www.HorizonBlue.com. Horizon BCBSNJ is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association serving more than 3.4 million members.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report® series and the national BCBS Health Index SM . For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit BCBS.com. We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube and follow us on Twitter.

About Blue Distinction Centers
Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) met overall quality measures, developed with input from the medical community. A Local Blue Plan may require additional criteria for providers located in its own service area; for details, contact your Local Blue Plan. Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+) also met cost measures that address consumers’ need for affordable healthcare. Each provider’s cost of care is evaluated using data from its Local Blue Plan. Providers in CA, ID, NY, PA, and WA may lie in two Local Blue Plans’ areas, resulting in two evaluations for cost of care; and their own Local Blue Plans decide whether one or both cost of care evaluation(s) must meet BDC+ national criteria. National criteria for BDC and BDC+ are displayed on www.bcbs.com. Individual outcomes may vary. For details on a provider’s in-network status or your own policy’s coverage, contact your Local Blue Plan and ask your provider before making an appointment. Neither Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association nor any Blue Plans are responsible for non-covered charges or other losses or damages resulting from Blue Distinction or other provider finder information or care received from Blue Distinction or other providers.

Get Help Today, Give Us a Call

Summit Oaks Hospital offers no-cost, confidential assessments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To begin your treatment journey, please call 800-753-5223 today. It’s never too late.