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PEQUANNOCK TWP. – August 20, 2013 – A delegation from one of China’s top mental health centers visited NewBridge Services to take home lessons on how the northern New Jersey nonprofit treats people with mental illness.
The four administrators from the Institute of Mental Health at Peking University on Friday asked NewBridge’s leadership team about the organization’s operations and then toured Crossroads, one of its successful psychiatric day treatment programs, and the client-tended NewBridge Enrich garden.
“We are so impressed,’’ said Xia Zhang, director of the Dean’s Office.
The IMH, designated as China’s National Center for Mental Health, is an integrated center for psychiatric service, training, and research. Zhang said the IMH would use the information it gleaned at NewBridge to develop collaborations with organizations in China to provide community-based treatment, Zhang said.
While the mental health system in the U.S. has shifted to community-based care, psychiatric hospitals are the primary locations for treatment in China. Community-based treatment “is a growing trend, but it’s not the dominant case now,’’ Zhang said through a translator.
Mental illness remains highly stigmatized in the country of 1.3 billion people, but Zhang said diagnoses are on the rise as family incomes increase. “People have the money to see a doctor,’’ she said.
Professor Chien-Chung Huang, director of the Huamin Research Center at Rutgers University’s School of Social Work, arranged the visit as part of the center’s mission to build relationships and promote learning between the U.S. and China and to address social welfare issues in China.
NewBridge Chief Executive Officer Robert L. Parker gave the delegation an overview of the 50-year-old nonprofit, focusing on the programs that treat people with chronic and persistent mental illness.
A client with severe mental illness may begin treatment in the highly structured Crossroads program, but as he improves, he can move to NewBridge’s Adult and Family and Services, receiving a mix of counseling services and less frequent psychiatrist visits, and possibly group therapy sessions. Because half of all people with mental illness have an alcohol or drug abuse problem, NewBridge treats addictions simultaneously.
“The goal is less service and more independence,’’ said Victoria Ferlauto, director of NewBridge’s partial care services. Mental illness has a high relapse rate, so NewBridge has an open-door policy, allowing clients to return to treatment after leaving, or switch to a more supportive program. “We treat them as they need us,’’ Ferlauto said.
NewBridge provides a range of housing for clients, from group homes with round-the-clock supervision to independent apartments. “Housing is an integral part of our services,’’ Parker said.
Dongxue Chen, the director of the Dean’s Office at IMH, wanted to know how the cost of NewBridge programs compared with psychiatric hospitals. Parker explained that even Newbridge’s most expensive service – the intensively supervised group homes – is less than half the $130,000 for a patient at a state psychiatric hospital.
“It’s good economics to invest in companies like NewBridge because it saves taxpayers’ money, and it improves the lives of people who want to get well,’’ Parker said.
Zhang said mental illness carries such a stigma in China that many people don’t seek treatment. In America too, “Mental illness continues to be scary to the general public,’’ Parker noted. NewBridge runs education programs designed to de-stigmatize it.
Committed to strengthening communities, NewBridge also offers services that allow seniors to remain in their homes, and resiliency programs that teach children techniques to cope with life’s challenges.
After the Q&A, NewBridge horticulturalist therapist John Beirne led a tour of NewBridge Enrich, a lush garden with exotic plants and trees. The delegation stopped to admire vibrant crepe myrtles and a wedding cake tree, both native to China. The delegation gave NewBridge several gifts, including glass panels painted with flowers, while NewBridge gave their Chinese guests a framed photograph of Persian shield, an ornamental, herbaceous plant grown in the Enrich garden.
“Know that someone with mental illness grew this,’’ Parker said.
About NewBridge Services, Inc.
NewBridge Services, a 501c(3) nonprofit, is a premier provider of counseling services, housing and educational programs in northern New Jersey. With 36 sites, including seven outpatient treatment locations, five residential treatment facilities, a drop-in center and 22 residential properties, NewBridge helps more then 10,000 people – from young children to seniors – every year. Throughout its 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.
About the Huamin Research Center
The Huamin Research Center is committed to developing and disseminating knowledge through research and exchange that promote professional development of nonprofit organizations and strengthens individual, family, and community wellbeing in China. Established in 2012, the center supports research projects that relate to nonprofit organizations and social welfare issues in China; promotes mutual learning between China the United States; and provides fellowships to doctoral and master students studying nonprofit and social welfare issues in China.