Trinitas unveils Center for Autism and Development Disabilities with aim of improving care for community

Elizabeth-based hospital is only one in state to offer designated unit for individuals living with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental illness

No one likes trips to a hospital. When you’re on the autism spectrum, they can be even more difficult.

Loud and hectic environments can trigger negative behavior and can lead patients to decompensate. Prolonged stays — whether it be waiting for an appointment or waiting to be released — can lead to anxiety episodes.

Simply put, situations that should lead to a positive outcomes often can have the opposite impact.

Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, long a leader in inpatient behavioral health services for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and co-occurring mental disorders, is taking further steps to meet the specialized needs of this population.

The interior of the facility.

Trinitas, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, recently cut the ribbon on the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

For many years, TRMC has had a strong commitment to the needs of individuals with I/DD, operating 10 specialized inpatient beds.

Among other the benefits, the facility (located on the New Point Campus) will feature 12 new beds, increasing the hospital’s capacity to 22 beds while offering a continuum of care provided by a team that has training and experience caring for individuals who may need acute psychiatric hospitalization, medication management, crisis stabilization, psychiatric assessment or behavioral assessment and planning.

TRMC long has been the only hospital in the state to offer a specialized unit for individuals living with I/DD and mental illness, for which adult psychiatric units are often not an appropriate setting.

“In order to meet the specialized needs of those with intellectual/developmental disabilities, Trinitas needed to create an environment that was comfortable, inclusive and suited for those with disabilities,” Trinitas CEO Dr. Nancy DiLiegro said.

“The number of individuals with autism and other disabilities has grown across the state, and, over the last few years, wait times have doubled and patients in need of care are being held up in emergency rooms or screening centers for days while waiting to be admitted to appropriate inpatient services.”

Dr. Frank Ghinassi, senior vice president of behavioral health and addiction services at RWJBarnabas Health and CEO and president of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, agreed.

“It is so important that every population has access to care that best suits their physical and emotional needs, and the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities allows patients to receive that proper specialized care,” he said.

Some of the facility’s features.

“Individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families face enough struggle in their daily lives, and being able to provide this population access to the mental health care they need and deserve is a significant step for communities and families across New Jersey.”

The Trinitas Foundation, the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, individual donors and a number of corporations raised $3.3 million to expand the services at TRMC and help individuals with I/DD and their families across the state. Now, more New Jersey families will have access to quality care with specialized doctors and a setting that is tailored to their individual needs.

Michael Schmidt, CEO and executive director of the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, said his group is thrilled to be able to help.

“The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey has been a longtime supporter of Trinitas Regional Medical Center, RWJ Barnabas Health, and is proud to have provided a critical seed grant of $1 million to fund the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities,” he said.

“Given the tremendous need in our community, these additional beds and the accompanying services will provide individuals and families with the compassionate care that some of the most vulnerable members in our community deserve.”