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Brook Lane to affiliate with Meritus, enhance care for region, state

Move supports a growing community need for mental health services Two long-standing local health providers will join together in July, as Brook Lane and Meritus Health will affiliate, vowing to expand access to mental health services across the region and state. The definitive agreement comes after months of formal due diligence by both organizations and their respective boards. “As we consider the best opportunities to support the total health of our community, while the demand for mental health support and services continues to increase, welcoming Brook Lane to our organization presents an opportunity for our two strong organizations to enhance access to services and provide patients with more coordinated care,” said Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., President and CEO of Meritus Health. Joshi said Meritus Health and Brook Lane have a long tradition of partnering in the community. In September 2023, the health providers worked together to open a mental health urgent care on the Meritus Health Campus off Robinwood Drive in Hagerstown. “We looked at the need in our community and across our state and found a way to share resources in order to quickly support that need,” Joshi said. “We understand the strength in working together and look forward to the next chapter in providing mental health services and education to our community.” Over the past several months, Joshi said he and Brook Lane CEO Jeffery D. O’Neal, MBA, LCPC, FACHE have been considering how they can use the strengths of their respective organizations to better fill current and future mental health needs across the region and the state. By combining resources, O’Neal and Joshi outlined an expanded model for mental health that would extend access levels of care and position the organization as one of the largest and most accessible in the nation. Once combined, the community would have access to integrated clinical offerings with a total of 80 inpatient beds; a psychiatry residency program, a high acuity residential crisis program, day treatment programs for children, adolescents and adults, substance abuse treatment services, mental health urgent care, mental health telehealth visits, a Type III and two Type I school programs, school-based therapists, interventional psychiatry programs, an employee assistance program servicing 12 organizations, and much more. Together, there would be 25 providers, 105 licensed therapists, 115 dedicated nursing staff and 20 teachers, all dedicated to supporting mental health services. This model, with combined resources, doesn’t just put together clinical excellence, but aligns cultural and community values as well. "Meritus and Brook Lane share community-centric values and a vision for making our neighbors healthier," O’Neal said. "Affiliating with Meritus provides our organization with the support it needs to grow and expand, while maintaining our tradition of providing compassionate mental and behavioral health services.” The affiliation will not reduce jobs, according to both leaders, but Brook Lane team members will be moved to the more competitive Meritus compensation scale. Over time, the organizations will consider together the best opportunities for expanding mental health services. “We know this partnership will improve access to care in our community,” Joshi said. “We look forward to our next steps, as together we plan and envision how to best enhance services and education.” Meritus Health, Western Maryland’s largest health care provider, is located at the crossroads of Western Maryland, Southern Pennsylvania and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. With over 3,000 employees, 500 medical staff members and 250 volunteers, Meritus Health serves over 200,000 residents of the tristate region. Meritus Medical Center has 327 beds and Meritus Medical group has over 160 providers. More information can be found at www.MeritusHealth.com or visit our Facebook page or LinkedIn page.

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Are you in pain? Neurosurgery might be the answer for you

When you hear the term “neurosurgery,” you might think about a doctor operating on your brain, or conditions such as tumors, aneurysms or stroke. While those are a part of it, one of the chief parts of neurosurgery is reducing and managing chronic pain. “Pain is a big problem in the community,” said Gentian Toshkezi, M.D., F.A.A.N.S, F.C.N.S, who is part of Meritus Neurosurgery with Chikezie Eseonu, M.D., F.A.A.N.S. “The treatment of pain and improving the patient’s quality of life is one of our main tasks.” Meritus opened its specialty practice, Meritus Neurosurgery, in 2023 to serve a growing community need. The health system wanted to provide the specialty surgical services needed so community members don't have to travel out of the area for the care they need. Formally, neurosurgery is a specialized branch of medicine dedicated to resolving complex issues in the brain and spine. But that can also include everything from back pain to carpal tunnel syndrome to pain or numbness in the hands and feet. Such conditions can be treated by neurosurgeons, either with surgery or other methods, Dr. Toshkezi said. For example, you might get treated for spinal-related pain in your lower back by a physical therapist, but the pain is not going away. A referring physician could send you to the neurosurgeon for treatment. “When degenerative spine disease progresses, it can cause compression of the spinal cord, and that requires decompression,” he said. Sometimes pain is caused by trauma such as a vehicle crash. Other times it can be from repetition such as sitting at a desk and using a keyboard. Sometimes the pain can be caused by genetics. Whatever the condition, Dr. Toshkezi said neurosurgeons come up with an approach and strategy to treat the pain and improve quality of life. The first step is to talk to your primary care physician, who would perform certain tests, Dr. Toshkezi said. “If they are positive, we are here,” he said. “Not every headache or back pain requires neurosurgical intervention. But don’t ignore it.” For those seeking a consultation with the Meritus Neurosurgery team, a referral is necessary. To learn more about the extensive range of neurosurgery services offered, visit the official website at MeritusHealth.com/Neurosurgery.


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Meritus chief financial officer honored by industry publication

Josh Repac named to Becker’s 2024 CFOs to Know Meritus Health Chief Financial Officer Josh Repac is among Becker's Hospital Review’s 2024 "CFOs to Know" list, which recognizes pivotal financial stewards within healthcare organizations. These CFOs manage enormous budgets, navigate intricate revenue cycles and develop financial strategies that ensure the sustainability of their institutions. “I am honored to be listed in Becker's CFOs to Know list among so many incredible leaders across the nation working to improve a very important component of healthcare, affordably. Truly, I am honored to help lead a team that is dedicated to improving the health of our community. By working hard to improve the efficiency at Meritus, we are helping to make care more affordable and accessible," said Repac, who first started at Meritus in 2019 and was promoted to CFO in 2021. Highlighted for their roles in maintaining the financial health of hospitals and health systems, these CFOs enable their organizations to focus on delivering top-notch patient care. The list celebrates their commitment to enhancing financial operations, a cornerstone for the success of any healthcare facility. “Reducing costs and ultimately helping to make healthcare affordable is paramount to achieving our mission of improving the health of our community,” said Meritus President and CEO Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H. “Josh is an incredible leader who is passionate about bringing needed care into reach for our community. He's leveraged community partnerships and helped create pathways for care within our community in addition to having a strong acumen for the complicated reimbursement programs. Josh truly is the whole package.” The Becker's Hospital Review editorial team accepted nominations for this list. The full list features individual profiles of all leaders on the list, and can be read here. Note: The CFOs to Know list is not exhaustive, nor is it an endorsement of included CFOs or associated healthcare providers. Leaders and organizations cannot pay for inclusion on this list. CFO names are presented in alphabetical order.

Prostate screening a key part of men’s health

It’s expected that prostate cancer will be the No. 1 diagnosed cancer in men in the United States this year, according to the American Urological Association. That amounts to 299,010 cases, 6150 in Maryland. Prostate cancer is also expected to be the No. 2 cause of cancer deaths among men in the U.S., behind only lung cancer, in 2024. That amounts to 35,250 cases, 660 in Maryland. “I tell my patients it is so important to weigh the options for screening for prostate cancer, especially if you are at high risk,” said Dr. Kevin Hackett, M.D., with Meritus Urology. “Early warning signs are rare with prostate cancer.” The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds part of the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). Dr. Hackett recommends men talk to the doctors about prostate screening at age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years. Why 10 more years? Dr. Hackett notes that not all prostate cancers are alike. Finding and treating all prostate cancers early might seem to make sense, but some grow so slowly that they would never cause any problems during a man’s lifetime. He recommends discussing screening at age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African American men and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65). He strongly recommends talking about screening for men aged 40 who are at higher risk: those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age. “When looking at the options, we take the time to review all of the information to make the best decision possible for the patient,” he said. “And screenings aren’t always what the movies would have you believe.” Specifically, there is the prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, blood test. The typical test finds a protein made by cells in the prostate gland. The chance of having prostate cancer goes up as the PSA level goes up in the blood. While not 100% effective, the American Urological Association says it should be used as the primary screening. The other usual test is the digital rectal exam, or DRE, where the doctor uses a gloved and lubricated finger inserted into the rectum to feel for any bumps or hard areas on the prostate that might be cancer. It’s often less effective than a PSA test, but it can sometimes find cancers in men with normal PSA levels. If a PSA and/or DRE test show signs of cancer, Dr. Hackett said a prostate biopsy might be ordered. That procedure takes a small sample of the prostate using a thin, hollow needle for examination under a microscope. Though more complicated than other tests, it is the only way to know for sure if a man has prostate cancer. “The doctors at Meritus Urology are there to help men through all stages, from screening to biopsy, to treatment of prostate cancer, should you need it,” Dr. Hackett said. “And you can do things yourself to reduce your risk for prostate cancer, such as exercising, eating healthy, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption, among other things.” To learn more, visit www.meritushealth.com/Urology.


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