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For Immediate Release:
July 8, 2009

For Information, Contact:
Ellen Lovejoy, (609) 292-3703 

All N.J. psychiatric hospitals soon to go smoke free
TRENTON - Greystone Park and Ancora psychiatric hospitals went smoke-free today, and the state’s other psychiatric hospitals will soon follow, Commissioner Jennifer Velez announced. The ban comes after more than a year of smoking cessation programs aimed at preparing patients and staff, and bolsters an overall movement toward general wellness for patients.

“This initiative mirrors what is being done at hospitals, medical centers and corporations throughout the country and supports the Division of Mental Health Services' efforts to embrace a system which focuses on wellness and recovery,” said Commissioner Velez. “The advocacy of the Governor and legislators was essential in taking this step to support both patient and employee health.”

A training curriculum was designed and all employees receive training in multiple tobacco cessation techniques.  Since 2006, the two hospitals have increasingly been prescribing smoking cessation treatments, running “Healthy Living Groups” and successfully creating smoke-free units. Educational information has been posted and distributed throughout the hospital and to family members.

Employees at each of the hospitals have been instrumental during the planning and implementation phases.  Some have already quit smoking as a result of the initiative.  Through a partnership with the Department of Health and Senior Services Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program and its NJ Quitcenters, the Division of Mental Health Services will offer supports for employees who want to stop smoking.

“Studies show definitively that Nicotine addiction negatively affects both clinical outcomes and life span in psychiatric patients, particularly,” said DHS Deputy Commissioner Kevin Martone. “Given what we know it, we are taking responsible action to address the total health of patients while under our care.”

A study by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Medical Directors Council in 2006 revealed that people with mental illness live an average of 25 years less than the general population.  Approximately 75 percent are estimated to be addicted to nicotine, contributing to the premature death.

“As providers of healthcare, our state psychiatric hospitals should treat the illness, whether it is schizophrenia, nicotine dependence or high blood pressure,” Martone said.

Typically, a patient is admitted to a state hospital following a stay at an inpatient psychiatric unit of a local hospital. Approximately 20 inpatient psychiatric units located in local New Jersey hospitals, which send patients to the state hospitals for further treatment, are currently smoke-free.

In partnership with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, University Behavioral Health Care, DMHS developed and funded a manual that is considered a best practice tool nationally regarding smoking cessation. This manual and a consumer-operated support program are currently being used in New Jersey state psychiatric hospitals and are referenced in a National Association of Mental Health Directors national best-practices toolkit, “Tobacco Free Living in Psychiatric Settings.”

The DMHS cessation program also was coordinated with the New Jersey Departments of Health and Senior Services and Personnel, as required by the new law.

Governor Jon S. Corzine on April 7, 2008, signed legislation into law (S-625/A-2308 Vitale/Vainieri-Huttle, Cruz-Perez, Wagner, Munoz) that permits a smoking ban on the grounds of state psychiatric hospitals.  In March 2008, the bill passed with overwhelming support in the Legislature. 
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