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Take your best shot at enjoying the season by staying healthy

September 28, 2023

Autumn has officially arrived, and it brought along those cool, crisp temperatures we all love. But you know what else comes with this season? The start of viral illness season! At Meritus Health, we're not here to rain on your autumnal parade, but we are here to keep you safe, healthy and in the know. Our experts follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that everyone aged 6 months and older should have an updated flu and COVD vaccines. Those 60 and older should talk to their healthcare provider to see if RSV vaccination is right for them. We know that no one likes shots, but here's the deal: This simple yet oh-so-significant step can be your secret weapon against the flu. It'll shrink your chances of a flu-filled fiasco, keep you far away from hospital beds. As we dive into the cozy months of fall and winter, remember, it's all about staying in tip-top shape and having some viral fun without the viruses. Get that flu shot and keep those germs at bay. Meritus Health Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anand Budi shared some strategies to help you stay healthy: · Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against certain viral illnesses like the flu. Ensure that you and your family members are up to date on vaccinations, including the seasonal flu vaccine. · Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public places, touching surfaces that may be contaminated, and before eating. · Try to maintain physical distance from people who are sick, and if you are feeling unwell, consider staying home to prevent spreading illness to others. · Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of tissues properly. · Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as this can introduce viruses into your body if your hands are contaminated. Remember that while these strategies can help reduce your risk of getting sick, it's impossible to eliminate all risks entirely. In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for information on our upcoming COVID vaccine clinics – a chance to make it super easy to keep those vaccinations current. You can also find the latest, up-to-date information on the flu season, viral illnesses, testing, treatment, and vaccination at please visit          

Close to Home: How Meritus & Brook Lane team up for the community

September 27, 2023

Finding hope after the storm - we could not have a selected a better sky to show the hope represented in our Mental Health Walk-in Care clinic. It's an opportunity to provide the right level of care to our neighbors - and one that is possible due to a partnership with Brook Lane Health Services. On the most recent edition of Close to Home, our President and CEO. Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H,. and Brook Lane's CEO, Jeffrey O'Neal discuss the opening of the center and its vital need in the community. Click here to listen!

Meritus Health recognizes National Recovery Month

September 25, 2023

In 1989, the month of September became officially known as National Recovery Month. A time to highlight the nation’s strong and proud recovery community, and raise awareness that recovery, in all forms, is possible. In September 2023, Meritus Health took a significant step in bringing services to the region to help aid in the recovery process by opening two dedicated facilities – a walk-in mental health clinic and an expanded inpatient crisis center. The Mental Health Walk-In Care facility is conveniently located at Meritus Medical Center 11116 Medical Campus Road, Hagerstown, MD. Patients must enter through the Orange/Mental Wellness Entrance on campus. The development of the Mental Health Walk-In Care facility falls in line with the health system’s mission to "Improve the Health of the Community." Meritus partnered with Brook Lane Health Services to provide support for patients aged 6 years old and older. “Our collaboration with Brook Lane is a key part of this project. Together, we recognize the importance of addressing mental health challenges in our community,” said Allen Twigg, executive director of community and behavioral health.  “This partnership allows us to combine expertise, resources and dedication to promptly treat mental health needs, and provide a path to ongoing care. Our shared goal is to foster long-term mental well-being for our community,” he added. In addition to the Mental Health Walk-In Care facility, the health system also expanded the Meritus Crisis Center program from three beds to six. This is an inpatient unit designed to support individuals aged 18 and older who are struggling with addiction.  The Meritus Crisis Center builds upon a successful pilot initiative that offered three crisis stabilization beds. During the pilot, Meritus achieved an impressive 82% linkage rate with treatment upon discharge. The unit provides a safe environment for individuals struggling with substance abuse while they await a treatment program. “We understand the profound challenges posed by addiction and aim to provide a safe and supportive environment for recovery,” Twigg said. According to Meritus Health’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), a concerning trend was indicated -- a steady increase in drug overdose fatalities in Washington County over the last decade, at a rate higher than the state average. The CHNA is a systematic process and report that examines the health concerns in a particular area.  “This underscores the urgency of our efforts to expand mental health services and addiction support,” Twigg said. The opening of the Mental Health Walk-In Care facility, along with the expansion of the Meritus Crisis Center, represents a represents a significant step forward in improving access to timely and effective behavioral health care.  “Our dedicated team is committed to supporting the well-being of our community and ensuring that everyone has access to the care they need,” Twigg said. For more information on these services and how they can benefit you or your loved ones, please visit

Ribbon cutting for Mental Health Walk-In Care, Meritus Crisis Center

September 25, 2023

Leaders from Meritus Health, Brook Lane Health Services and state and local representatives gathered to celebrate the opening of the Mental Health Walk-In Care facility and expansion of the Meritus Crisis Center during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the health system’s campus, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.  These are two distinct services for the Washington County community. The Meritus Crisis Center supports patients struggling with addiction as they seek long-term treatment. The Mental Health Walk-In Care is open to patients aged six years and older who can come, without an appointment, for immediate mental health care. Proclamations from the Washington County Government, the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and from Sen. Paul Corderman (R-Washington/Frederick) were presented to Meritus and Brook Lane along with thankful words for the critically needed services. For more information on these important services visit

Meritus Health urges caution, prevention ahead of viral illness season

September 15, 2023

As Meritus lives its mission of “Improving the Health of the Community,” dedicated caregivers are sharing information about preventative measures to take during viral illness season. In alignment with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Meritus experts strongly recommend that individuals aged 6 months and older receive an updated flu vaccine in addition to staying informed about COVID-19 precautions, and they encourage all eligible individuals to consider vaccination or booster shots as needed. There are multiple options available for scheduling your vaccinations and boosters: • MyChart: You can conveniently schedule your flu and COVID-19 vaccines or boosters through your MyChart account. • Primary Care Provider: Reach out to your primary care provider's office for vaccine appointments and guidance tailored to your health needs. • Your Local Health Department: Stay informed about local vaccination resources by checking with your nearby health department. • Your Local Pharmacy: Many local pharmacies offer both flu and COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters, making it easily accessible for you. Over-the-counter flu and COVID-19 tests are readily available at pharmacies, grocery stores, and online retailers. These tests are user-friendly, quick, and provide reliable results for most individuals. For those requiring laboratory testing, Meritus Medical Laboratory locations offer comprehensive testing services. Please be aware that a healthcare provider's order is necessary, and your insurance will be billed accordingly. Dr. Anand Budi, chief medical officer, emphasizes the health system’s commitment to safeguarding the community against viral illnesses such as COVID-19, RSV and the flu. “Vaccination remains our most effective defense against the spread of these viral illnesses,” he said. You can schedule your flu and COVID vaccine appointments with ease through MyChart, your primary care provider's office or by simply walking in at Meritus Primary Care – Prospect Street. “We all have a part to play in reducing the spread of viral illnesses, including COVID-19 and the flu. By getting vaccinated, you not only protect yourself but also contribute to the well-being of our entire community,” Dr. Budi said. For the latest, up-to-date information on the flu season, viral illnesses, testing, treatment, and vaccination options, please visit

When support can’t wait: Meritus access to mental health care

September 13, 2023

Meritus Health, in keeping with its mission of “Improving the Health of the Community” is proudly expanding access to mental health services this month. The health center will open the Meritus Crisis Center, a six-bed inpatient unit, to support the needs of those struggling with addiction as well as a new Mental Health Walk-In Care facility that will provide mental health services to individuals in need of immediate help, assessment and intervention. Both are located on the Meritus Medical Center campus on Medical Campus Drive, via the Orange Entrance. In partnership with Brook Lane Health Services, the mental health walk-in care facility will serve as a crucial resource for individuals aged 6 and older, catering to children, adolescents and adults facing mild-to-moderate mental health crises. “We are here to help our neighbors get access to the care they need,” said Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., President and CEO of Meritus Health. “We have continued to see the need for these services and are proud to be partnering with Brook Lane to make sure our community has easy access.” “Joining forces with Meritus Health on this initiative is a testament to the power of collaboration in making a positive impact on the lives of those struggling with mental health challenges. Our combined expertise, resources and dedication will not only be treating mental health emergencies, but also offering a pathway to ongoing care, fostering long-term mental well-being for our community,” CEO of Brook Lane, Jeffery D. O’Neal, said.    Allen Twigg, executive director of behavioral and community health said the health system’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment highlighted a steady increase of drug overdose fatalities in Washington County over the last 10 years, at a rate that’s higher than the state average. The Meritus Crisis Center expands on a pilot initiative offering three crisis stabilization beds with a goal of serving 150 patients in a year. The pilot was very successful, with an 82% linkage rate with treatment upon discharge.  Crisis stabilization beds provide a safe environment for a patient struggling with substance abuse, while they await a treatment program. "We are honored to expand this desperately-needed service to our community," Twigg said. "This represents a significant step forward in improving access to timely and effective behavioral health care, and we are dedicated to supporting the well-being of our community," he added. For more information, visit

Sepsis Awareness Month: Stay healthy, stay aware & keep sepsis at bay

September 8, 2023

Sepsis Awareness Month is here, and it's crucial for everyone to understand what sepsis is and why it's a potentially life-threatening infection. So, let's break it down in a more relatable way. Imagine sepsis as an intruder that sneaks into your bloodstream. It's like a hidden enemy that, if left unchecked, can turn deadly. Sepsis happens when your body's immune system goes into overdrive while trying to fight off an infection, and this overreaction can lead to serious problems – that’s the bad news. Now for some good news – Meritus Medical Center is one of the top performers in the care provided to patients with sepsis when compared to all hospitals across the country.  “Our care at Meritus exceeds the top 10% of other hospitals and health systems when it comes to taking care of patients presenting with sepsis,” said Dr. Christopher Handera, who oversees the hospitalist program at Meritus. Early detection is vital in identifying possible cases of sepsis. Meritus places a strong emphasis on educating both patients and healthcare professionals about the early signs of sepsis. By empowering individuals to recognize symptoms such as fever, rapid heartbeat and altered mental state, the healthcare system enables quicker intervention. In addition to recognizing the signs of early detection, community education and prevention play key roles in raising awareness of the severity of sepsis and how everyone can play a part in keeping themselves and their family sepsis-free. “Prevention starts at the root, and that's why we have implemented stringent infection control protocols. From hand hygiene to sterilization techniques, we take pride in maintaining a proactive stance against infections. By preventing infections at their source, the risk of sepsis is drastically reduced,” Dr. Handera said. Another way that Meritus is protecting patients is through comprehensive care coordination, and ensuring seamless communication and collaboration among various departments. “Through coordination with all the providers and people involved in the care of a patient, we communicate, share and monitor health conditions so that any signs of potential sepsis are promptly addressed,” Dr. Handera said. Timely intervention and communication between medical professionals play a vital role in preventing sepsis-related complications. “We leverage our electronic health records to facilitate efficient patient management. These records track patient health data, enabling healthcare providers to spot trends or warning signs that might indicate a heightened risk of sepsis,” Dr. Handera said. Patients and their families can be active participants in their own sepsis prevention. It’s important to follow medical advice, adhere to prescribed medications and seek medical attention for infections. Join us in raising awareness about sepsis and taking steps to prevent it. Share this information with your friends and family, educate yourself about the early warning signs, practice good hygiene and seek medical attention promptly if you suspect an infection.  Stay healthy, stay aware and keep sepsis at bay!

Meritus Health welcomes Hagerstown Gastroenterology

September 7, 2023

Meritus Health is pleased to announce Dr. C. P. Choudari and Hagerstown Gastroenterology has joined the health system. “As our community continues to grow, it is so important that Meritus continues to provide access to the medical care our neighbors need,” Meritus Health’s Chief Strategy Officer, Dave Lehr said.  “Coordinated care is the best care, when a patient’s primary care physician can easily communicate with other specialists. By welcoming additional specialists to our network, Meritus is improving coordinated care for our patients,” he added. Dr. Choudari is a board-certified gastroenterologist with an expert track record in diagnosing and treating a wide range of digestive disorders. His commitment to staying at the forefront of medical advancements ensures that patients at Meritus Hagerstown Gastroenterology will have access to the latest treatments and procedures.  “We are thrilled to be part of the Meritus team,” Dr. Choudari said. “My team has long-standing relationships with many Meritus physicians and caregivers, and we look forward to enhanced coordination and access for our patients,” he added. For more information about Meritus Health and the services offered at Meritus Hagerstown Gastroenterology, please visit

The Importance of Early Mobility for Critical Care Patients

September 6, 2023

It’s a cloudy Monday morning and Mark Dawison is lying in his hospital room at Meritus Medical Center. He’s hooked up to a variety of tubes, and the sound of his ventilator hums across the room. What happens next may seem unexpected; his care team appears with the day’s goal – to get him moving. The initiation of early mobility is a part of a program implemented by the interdisciplinary team on the Critical Care Unit at Meritus Medical Center. “If we can get patients moving and exercising sooner, they are able to get stronger faster,” said Julie Coblentz, physical therapist and manager of Meritus Medical Center’s inpatient therapy program. The Meritus team is working toward getting as many patients moving within the first 48-hours of being on a ventilator as possible. “Currently, 23% of patients participate in mobility tasks within that 48-hour window, which is up from zero percent prior to the program’s beginning,” Coblentz said. She added that from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023, 73% of patients got out of bed or walked while on Meritus’ Critical Care Unit (up from 58% the previous year). Additionally, 29% of patients on a ventilator performed some level of active mobility such as sitting on the edge of the bed, standing or walking.   “We have made early mobility a big part of patient care,” Coblentz said. “By doing this, we hope to help patients spend less time in the hospital, have fewer problems and feel better overall,” she added. Medical experts decide the best patients who will fit into the program based on their health and what they were able to do before they came to the hospital. “The care is unique for each patient, because everyone is different. The goal is to help these patients move at least once a day, with help from therapy and nursing,” Coblentz said. “We implement early mobility for patients through a variety of activities, such as exercises, moving around in bed, walking and going up stairs, if appropriate. Each patient gets the activities that are just right for them, so everyone's experience is tailored to their individual needs,” she added. Back in Dawison’s room, his care team is able to get him to move to the side of the bed. He looks up and his thumb inches upward – a ‘thumbs up’ to his team, and to his recovery.

Meritus Health to open second retail pharmacy

September 1, 2023

In keeping with its mission, to “Improve the Health of the Community”, Meritus Health has announced plans to open a second retail pharmacy, further enhancing patient convenience and promoting better healthcare outcomes. This expansion demonstrates Meritus’ commitment to prioritizing patient well-being and coordinated care, particularly for patients utilizing outpatient services.  The pharmacy will be located in Robinwood Professional Center, in close proximity to many Meritus and community physician offices.  “The convenience of our location is important because we’re not just offering medications. We have also trained our staff on connecting people to financial resources if they cannot afford their medications. We want to ensure that everyone gets the treatments they need.” said Chief Strategy Officer Dave Lehr. The availability of prescription medications in close proximity to the Robinwood outpatient facilities not only reduces the risk of treatment lapses or reinfections, but also ensures that patients can promptly address any concerns related to their medications.  The Meritus Pharmacy also improves communication between pharmacists and Meritus providers, ensuring patients continue to be placed at the center of care decisions.  “A location in Robinwood lets us work closely across the care team, and ultimately that makes a better patient experience. Patients can rely on the trusted name of Meritus for support throughout their healthcare journey,” said Dr. Michael Staley, Pharm. D., Executive Director of Quality/Accreditation and Pharmacy Services, Meritus Health.  In spring 2022, Meritus opened its first retail pharmacy, Meritus Pharmacy, near the main lobby of Meritus Medical Center, allowing for a convenient option for patients to obtain medication as they were discharged from the hospital.  This second location is planned to open at the beginning of 2024.  For details regarding pharmacy hours and locations, visit

Close to Home: Higher Education at a Lower Cost

August 31, 2023

As most schools are back in session, we are talking higher education at a lower cost on this edition of Close to Home. Our President and CEO, Maulik Joshi sits down with Dr. Jacob Ashby, Executive Director, USMH, to talk about finding ways to streamline higher education so students are graduating with little to no debt. Click here to listen!

Meritus CEO: Don’t let COVID turn into a ‘viral trend’ this fall

August 30, 2023

As students across Washington County headed back to classrooms this week, and many families prepare to travel ahead of the Labor Day holiday season, local health providers are again sharing information to help reduce the spread of viral illnesses this fall. “We are noticing a slow uptick of COVID cases in the region, like most other states in the country. Although the symptoms do not warrant hospitalization, we recommend an abundance of caution,” explained Meritus Health President and CEO, Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H. “We definitely want to do our part to prevent COVID from becoming a fall trend. While the current numbers are not cause for alarm, we know we are headed into a season that usually brings an increase in viral illness. We want our neighbors to be cautious and take preventative measures, like washing their hands and staying home when experiencing symptoms of viral illness,” he added. Joshi said Meritus will look to guidance expected to be released by the CDC in September regarding COVID boosters and who is recommended to receive them, and that the health system will base vaccine availability from there. Joshi said that September and October are the months the CDC recommends most people receive a flu shot, but with all vaccinations, Meritus encourages patients speak about their specific health needs with a trusted physician. “We have learned over the past three years that access to information can be just as important as access to care,” Joshi said. “We encourage the community to speak with their physician about their health risks to create a plan for vaccination, boosters and staying well this viral illness season. Meritus is here for our community, and those who might not have a primary care physician are welcome to use our services to get connected to health information and care,” he added. He also noted community members without a primary care physician, or who need to speak with a healthcare provider quickly, are welcome to use Meritus Health’s virtual option, MeritusNow. Patients do not need an account or a password, and can log in via, and select an appointment time to get started. 

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