PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 21, 2019

Shereef Elnahal

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Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

NJ Department of Health Issues Progress Report on State Psychiatric Hospitals

Reduced Census, Fewer Patient Assaults and $4.8 million in Life Safety Improvements

A Department of Health progress report issued today on reforms to the state’s psychiatric hospitals outlines reductions in the census, fewer patient assaults, $4.8 million in life safety improvements and increased staffing.


The progress report measures improvements made by the Department’s Division of Behavioral Health Services, which issued its 18-month action plan last August. The plan covers the three regional state psychiatric hospitals--Ancora, Greystone and Trenton—as well as Ann Klein Forensic Center, a 200-bed facility in West Trenton for individuals with mental illness who are involved in the criminal court system.


Patient assaults have declined 29 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the first quarter of last year. Assaults vary at hospitals based on the population being treated there. The census has declined 10.6 percent from 1,504 in January 2018 to 1,344 in April.  A total of $4.8 million has been invested in physical plant upgrades and 4,500 staff have been retrained in emergency medical response procedures, according to the progress report.  The clinical staff has been increased by 135 including a dozen psychiatrists and four advanced practice nurses, which has allowed for more face-to-face time between patients and providers.


“Across the hospital system, we’ve made significant progress in improving the culture of safety and standardizing training and evidence-based clinical treatment practices. There is still much work to do, but every day we are moving closer to ensuring the best possible quality of care for those who are among the most vulnerable patients in the state,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.


As recommended in the Executive Assessment of the hospitals issued last August, active treatment provided to patients has increased through expanded use of Advanced Practice Nurses in collaboration with psychiatrists at the three regional hospitals. The Department is also maximizing the time that psychologists spend with patients in clinical treatment.


“As part of our standardized system of care, we are expanding our collaboration with Rutgers University to implement trauma-informed care interventions across the hospital system,” said Deborah Hartel, Deputy Commission for the Division of Behavioral Health Services.


Highlights of the report include:

  • 135 clinical staff have been hired including a dozen psychiatrists and four Advanced Practice nurses. Twelve additional psychiatrists are in the process of being hired.
  • A systemwide Central Violence Prevention Committee, formed in February, meets monthly and is working to pilot and standardize best practices for preventing and reducing patient violence across the hospital system
  • As part of the $4.8 million in life safety projects, Trenton Psychiatric Hospital initiated $2.8 million in hardware upgrades and room renovations to eliminate ligature risks that could cause patient harm
  • More than 4,500 staff in all hospitals have received specialized refresher training in responding to medical emergencies
  • Ancora State Psychiatric Hospital opened a simulation lab in July that gives staff hands-on clinical experience to practice skills needed to manage complex, high-acuity patients, drills for emergency preparedness, and interdisciplinary team work


The Department of Health and National Alliance on Mental Illness New Jersey will be hosting listening sessions to hear from affected families and stakeholders beginning next month.  Two sessions will be held, one in the north and one in the south.  Dates will be announced shortly.


A copy of the progress report is available on the Department’s website at https://nj.gov/health/integratedhealth/documents/NJ_state_psychiatric_hospitals_actionplan_progressMay2019.pdf


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Last Reviewed: 5/21/2019