September 20, 2023

Town Behavioral Health Services to Be Provided By Catholic Charities

By Donald Gilpin

Catholic Charities will be the new behavioral health provider for the town of Princeton, starting in January 2024, in a move designed to improve and expand mental health and addiction services as well as save taxpayer dollars.

In a September 15 press release, the Municipality of Princeton announced that its decision, requiring the reorganization of some services previously shared with Corner House Behavioral Health, “was made through a careful evaluation of the paradigm shift in behavioral health treatment toward the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) standard; while also considering other factors, such as the expressed need from the public for expanded mental health services within the Municipality.”

The announcement notes that Catholic Charities, by directly connecting patients to the CCBHC network, can deliver “the same quality of care for a wider range of services to more Princeton residents than Corner House Behavioral Health.” Activities of the CCBHC network are mostly funded by federal and state grants and deliver low-to-no-cost services, with “a more comprehensive and coordinated spectrum of care, beyond substance use and mental health.”

In an August 2 letter in the Town Topics Mailbox, Princeton Councilman and Corner House Liaison Leighton Newlin commented on Corner House, stating, “Recent changes within the organization’s hierarchy have prompted the Municipality of Princeton to reevaluate the Corner House business model considering today’s highly populated and competitive mental health/substance abuse markets as well as current community needs.” Corner House’s executive director resigned early this year and has not been replaced.

The Municipality’s announcement includes a statement of ongoing commitment to collaborate with Corner House, an organization with which it has had a close relationship for more than 50 years.

“Our goal remains steadfast: to preserve and enhance mental health services for Princeton residents,” the announcement reads. “The Municipality will continue to strengthen and support Corner House’s prevention platform by increasing the Corner House

Prevention Team’s youth programming in conjunction with programs offered under Health and Human Services. Outreach to the vulnerable adolescent community will be increased and expanded.”

In a September 19 statement, Newlin noted, “The Corner House board and foundation have been an integral part of the history, legacy, and success of Corner House. Their guidance and support have helped to sustain the delivery of social services, and our hope is that the members remain connected and continue their work in support of the mission to provide behavioral health care services and youth programming to the residents of Princeton.”

He went on to praise the “brilliance” and “leadership” of Princeton Health and Human Services Deputy Administrator Jeffrey Grosser and his health and human services team in working through the ongoing reorganization and transition of Princeton’s mental health and addiction services.

The Municipality press release concludes, “The Municipality deeply appreciates the unwavering commitment and dedication of Corner House staff and affiliates over the years and looks forward to continuing this collaborative partnership. Princeton will be working closely with Catholic Charities and Corner House to ensure that there are no gaps in care for existing patients as this transition occurs.”

Noting the Council’s “prudent oversight of taxpayer dollars with a net savings of half a million dollars annually while expanding and improving services,” the announcement emphasizes the benefits of the partnership with Catholic Charities.

Certification by the State of New Jersey as one of Mercer County’s CCBHCs demonstrates that Catholic Charities “meets an industry standard of best practices concerning the timeliness of care provision, the range of services provided, and access to 24/7 crisis services,” the Municipality press release states. CCBHCs also help people to coordinate care across different systems, such as physical health care and social services, ensuring that patients receive holistic care quickly without needing to navigate multiple care providers to meet their behavioral health needs.

The announcement also points out, “Tapping into the CCBHC network via Catholic Charities will allow Princeton to align its programs with cutting edge behavioral health best practices.”