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[The following letter to the editor appeared in the May 3 edition of The Record
When people have immediate health problems or are in crisis, the last thing they need is confusion when seeking help. Yet, that is precisely what’s happening right now in our backyard of Bergen County.
Last October, county officials announced the name change of Bergen Regional Medical
Center, their troubled county hospital. In addition to a major leadership overhaul, Bergen County rebranded the beleaguered hospital in Paramus with a new name- “New Bridge Medical Center.”
However, there’s one major flaw in the hospital’s rebranding campaign – the name “New Bridge” is not new at all. It’s already been in use for decades by NewBridge Services, a 55-year-old nonprofit offering mental health services, substance abuse treatment, affordable housing and education to upwards of 10,000 people a year in Bergen County and across North Jersey. To say the name change is now causing confusion to patients, providers and the public is an understatement.
After Bergen officials hijacked this storied organization’s name, NewBridge Services immediately notified the County about their serious concerns. They even sent a “cease and desist” letter through their attorney. Unfortunately, these pleas- on behalf of patients, their families and those seeking mental health services in our area – have fallen on deaf ears.
As predicted, the hospital’s name change is causing chaos and confusion.
For example, NewBridge Services routinely receives phone calls from those in desperate need of services from the Bergen County hospital – including those requiring immediate inpatient detox services that only a hospital can provide. In the midst of an opioid crisis, people in peril are being misdirected to the wrong agency, making it harder to get critical services. It is simply unconscionable that our local elected officials would allow this to happen to even one person seeking treatment. This may literally be the difference between life and death.
Seizing NewBridge’s good name has also caused mix-ups among those who have relied on their services for years. But patients aren’t the only ones confounded. NewBridge regularly receives emails and phone calls from donors and service partners who mistakenly believe NewBridge has merged or taken over the hospital. They’ve even heard from behavioral health centers – which refer to both the Bergen hospital and NewBridge- alerting them about the negative impact and confusion being caused.
Providers routinely discharging patients from area hospitals and referring them to outpatient services will often recommend “NewBridge”- which has been providing critical counseling to the community for over half-a-century. However, the distinction between the County hospital and NewBridge Services is often lost. So patients searching for “NewBridge” in their internet browser pick from one of two websites – the original NewBridge Services at “newbridge.org” or Bergen County’s re-branded hospital, “newbridgehealth.org.”
I’ve seen and heard about this confusion first-hand. In December, I moderated a Q&A discussion after a presentation on opioids led by the Chief of Police of Glen Rock and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal- who was at the time serving as Bergen County Prosecutor. Grewal used “NewBridge” to describe the County’s hospital during his talk. I spoke with him after the panel, and as we were chatting a nurse from Valley Hospital chimed in saying she’s had problems referring clients to the right place due to the name change.
This nurse told us that she was long aware of NewBridge Services and assumed it had become Bergen County Medical Center’s new manager. I explained the situation and this nurse thanked me for straightening it out for her, as she’d had more than one client show up for NewBridge Services and erroneously directed them to the medical center.
There really is no good reason it should have come to this. NewBridge Services provides affordable housing and other services to Bergen County residents- so it’s not as if the name isn’t known to county officials.
It’s disappointing that the County of Bergen- as a public entity- would take advantage of the good name and reputation of a non-profit serving North Jersey.
As former Board President of NewBridge Services, I call on Bergen County Executive James Tedesco to do the right thing. Please stop using the name of a 55-year non-profit organization to promote the Bergen County hospital. The County is needlessly confusing vulnerable patients who are seeking health and social services in their time of greatest need.
Anne Wolfe is a writer and is former President of NewBridge Services. She was also the first female Chair of the Bergen County Improvement Authority.
If you would like to help NewBridge Services, please contact Bergen County Executive Director James Tedesco III at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 201-336-7300. Demand that Bergen County change the hospital’s name to STOP the confusion!
NewBridge Services, a 501c(3) nonprofit, is a premier provider of counseling services, housing and educational programs in northern New Jersey serving more than 8,500 children, adults and seniors each year. NewBridge treats mental illnesses and addictions; teaches skills for coping with stress, grief and challenging relationships; builds and manages affordable housing; offers school-based programs that teach children and adolescents resiliency skills for healthy emotional development; helps young adults succeed in their education and prepare for careers; and supports seniors so they can remain independent. Throughout its more than 50-year history, NewBridge has remained true to its mission of bringing balance to people’s lives by tracking shifts in communities’ needs and providing innovative, effective programs to meet them.