COVID impact: Symposium to address behavioral health effects of pandemic

Rutgers to host inaugural event April 28

What is the long-term impact of COVID-19 on behavioral health — including the intersection of suicide and substance abuse that has spiked during this timeframe?

A health care symposium discussing that and more will be presented by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and the American College of Healthcare Executives of New Jersey this Thursday. (Register here.)

The event, “COVID-19 and Healthcare Resilience: Past, Present and Future,” features an all-star cast of panelists. It will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Cook Campus Center (59 Biel Road) in New Brunswick.

Officials say the goal is to move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic — and away from crisis response. Having challenged New Jersey’s health and medical systems’ capacity to prepare and respond, the focus is now on current and future needs and recommendations on how to best strengthen those health systems, organizers said.

The event will feature three panels:

Panel 1: Health care crisis management


  • Mark Sparta, president, Hackensack University Medical Center
  • Dr. Huzaifa Shakir, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School


  • Dr. Reg Blaber, chief clinical officer, Virtua Health
  • Dr. John Bonamo, chief quality officer and chief medical officer, RWJBarnabas Health
  • Dr. Dan Varga, chief physician executive, Hackensack Meridian Health
  • Carl Kirton, chief nursing officer, University Hospital
  • Betty Sheridan, chief administrative officer, Inspira Health
  • Dr. Lewis Rubinson, chief medical officer of Morristown Medical Center/Atlantic Health

Panel 2: Behavioral health care


  • Robert Kley, chief operating officer, Mental Health Association in New Jersey


  • Don Parker, CEO, Carrier Clinic, Hackensack Meridian Health
  • Russ Micoli, vice president, behavioral health services, Virtua Health
  • Tara Chalakani, deputy CEO, Preferred Behavioral Health Group
  • Dr. Aakash Shah, White House fellow, Hackensack Meridian Health
  • Dr. Frank Ghinassi, CEO, Rutgers Health University Behavioral Health Care

Panel 3:  What have we learned


  • Cathy Bennett, CEO, New Jersey Hospital Association


  • Amy Mansue, president, Inspira Health Network
  • Bill Arnold, CEO, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
  • Mark Stauder, president of the Hospitals and Health Services divisions, Hackensack Meridian Health
  • Shereef Elnahal, CEO, University Hospital