Woods Services partners to establish center for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism

RWJBarnabas Health, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care and Woods Services are joining forces to establish the very first integrated primary and behavioral health care center for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature recognized the critical need for I/DD services by supporting a grant of $800,000 toward the startup costs for the initiative. The world-class center is expected to open to families and individuals in early 2024 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton in Hamilton. The center will serve individuals who live in the central New Jersey region, with future plans to expand services to other areas of the state.

By providing equitable access to primary, specialty and behavioral health services, this center will improve health outcomes and reduce the overall costs of care for children and adults with I/DD and autism, and related behavioral and medical conditions, many of whom currently face a severe lack of services.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities traditionally have poor health outcomes and a life expectancy that is nearly 20 years below that of the general population. Many have multiple severe conditions that require highly specialized services and careful care coordination across medical, social and community services. Communication barriers, mobility issues and severe mental or behavior concerns make care needs complex and difficult to access, creating significant health inequities. Furthermore, there is an extreme shortage of providers who can or will work with this complex population of largely Medicaid recipients, in part because of the need for longer office visits and specialized skills, lack of accessible medical offices and low reimbursement rates. As a result, gaps in care are common and people in this population experience significant disparities in access to care and health outcomes.

This center will address and overcome these barriers by providing innovative, comprehensive and coordinated care across primary, specialty and behavioral health settings. Patients of the center may receive comprehensive medical and behavioral services onsite or through outpatient telehealth and in-home visits. The addition of telehealth will extend the program’s reach and remove barriers to care that are unique to the I/DD and autistic populations.

“We are excited to partner with RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care to bring Woods’ highly successful and leading edge Patient-Centered Primary Care Model to New Jersey,” Tine Hansen-Turton, Woods’ CEO and president, said. “Through the Medical Center at Woods, our model has shown that providing integrated primary care and behavioral health care can increase both access to and quality of care and, at the same time, lower overall Medicaid and Medicare cost of care by at least 20% by decreasing emergency room visits and inpatient hospitalization.”

“This new partnership highlights our shared commitment to increasing the capacity of existing primary care and behavioral health providers serving individuals with I/DD, ensuring that these patients receive the attention and specialized care they deserve,” Frank Ghinassi, senior vice president of behavioral health and addictions services at RWJBarnabas Health and CEO and president of Rutgers University Behavioral Health, said. “Building a robust program of experts and a network of providers dedicated to caring for the I/DD population is a major step forward in addressing the gaps in care that these patients face all too often.”