Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation Awards Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation $10 Million Grant to Expand Adolescent Behavioral Health Services in New Jersey   

Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation Awards Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation $10 Million Grant to Expand Adolescent Behavioral Health Services in New Jersey

March 19, 2024

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation is pleased to announce that the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, led by philanthropist Alex Cohen, has bestowed a remarkable $10 million grant to Hackensack Meridian Health to address the adolescent behavioral health crisis by ensuring the community’s most at-risk youth will receive the comprehensive care they desperately need. The gift will help support Hackensack Meridian Health’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Expansion Project, a $29 million multi-year investment aimed at increasing critical capacity through facility enhancements, expansion of innovative programs and services and prioritizing important additions in terms of providers and professionals specialized in behavioral health.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health care network, and we cannot continue delivering high-quality care for our patients without writing a new narrative for behavioral health care, especially for children and young adults,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “This extraordinary gift from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation will help us transform our response to this adolescent mental health crisis. We are in the midst of an ambitious, state-of-the-art behavioral health expansion project at Hackensack Meridian Carrier Clinic, our flagship behavioral health hospital, which will increase access to much-needed behavioral health services and care for our youth. We thank our friends at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation for their confidence and transformational support.”

Carrier Clinic, located on 100 acres in Belle Mead, New Jersey, is the largest private not-for-profit behavioral health facility in the state, specializing in inpatient psychiatric services for adolescents, adults and older adults, as well as inpatient and outpatient substance use disorder treatment services. For children and teenagers, Carrier Clinic offers comprehensive and unique behavioral health programs and support services. Transforming adolescent and pediatric mental health and providing patient and family-centered care is part of Carrier Clinic’s core strategic mission. It is a leader in the treatment of adolescents ages 12 and older with psychiatric and co-occurring disorders through an inpatient acute hospital unit, the East Mountain Youth Lodge, an intensive residential treatment program and East Mountain School, a school for grades seven through 12.

“Every child should have access to safe, approachable care for their mental and physical wellbeing,” said Alex Cohen, president of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Hackensack Meridian Health as they enhance adolescent behavioral health services and help create a brighter, healthier future for our youth.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), one in six children between the ages of six to 17 experience a mental health disorder each year, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents between ages 10 to 14. Children and teenagers are experiencing increased rates of depression, anxiety ,and suicide attempts. Exacerbated by more than two years of isolation by COVID-19, the self-reported mental health of the nation is at its lowest point in 20 years. The alarming statistics prove that the pediatric behavioral health system is overburdened and does not have the appropriate resources available to meet the needs of children and adolescents.

With countless young lives impacted amidst increasing challenges compounded by unprecedented circumstances worldwide, visionary philanthropy becomes paramount.

“We are so incredibly thankful for the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation’s transformational $10 million dollar gift,” said Joyce P. Hendricks, president and chief development officer, Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation. “The significance of such a generous contribution and its urgency cannot be overstated as it lays the foundation for much-needed systematic changes within our state’s pediatric mental healthcare landscape.”

The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation’s support, coupled with Hackensack Meridian Health’s capacity to engage in an initiative of this scale, has the power to make a significant impact on the mental health needs of future generations.

“Our comprehensive commitment lies in improving every facet of our health care continuum for our youth,” said Kenneth M. Esser, executive vice president, CTS, Behavioral Health, Hackensack Meridian Health. “We recognize that we must not only address the immediate needs, but also ensure there are longstanding services available for long-term transformation within the pediatric behavioral health space for years to come. This significant grant will help us make that happen.”

The Adolescent Behavioral Health expansion will improve access to patients requiring inpatient treatment who are waiting in emergency departments, crisis centers, partner hospitals and county screening centers across the state and further reduce patient turnaway. The new state-of-the-art design will feature clinical features designed specifically for the safety of patients and clinicians and include a family resource and training center. The unit will incorporate the latest technology, such as the use of multi-sensory rooms and interactive equipment, and develop an infrastructure that will ensure Hackensack Meridian Health can continually incorporate the ever-changing advances in this space.

“Representing the heart of our Adolescent Behavioral Health expansion is an innovative and patient-centered inpatient unit that will be built to meet the demand by lowering the age of the children we serve to 7 from the present minimum age of 12, increasing the number of children that we can provide these much-needed services to,” said Patricia A. Toole, president and chief hospital executive, Carrier Clinic. “The new inpatient unit will include modern nursing stations designed to improve patient care, as well as family visiting rooms, a cafeteria, a gym and a space for critical ancillary services, such as music and art therapy. We thank the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation for their vital support.”

With a commitment to holistic healthcare, Hackensack Meridian Health also aims to provide comprehensive support for enhanced adolescent programs and services at Carrier Clinic.

“We believe integrative therapy plays an important role in the holistic approach to helping children and adolescents in the healing process,” said Eric Alcera, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer, Carrier Clinic and assistant professor and founding vice chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.. “To support the needs of our anticipated expanded adolescent population, we will strengthen our efforts to boost equine therapy, art therapy, music therapy and horticultural therapy, which are the most appealing for our younger patients. A heartwarming thanks to the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation for this significant gift in support of our patients.”

To learn more about the crucial work taking place at the Carrier Clinic, please contact Michael Loch, director of Development, Behavioral Health, Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation at michael.loch@hmhn.org. To make a gift in support of Carrier Clinic, visit GiveHMH.org/CarrierClinic and direct it to Adolescent Behavioral Health.


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