September 21, 2008

Providers of Services to Substance Abusers Planning to Merge


Two of Bergen County's leading non-profit providers of substance- abuse services are looking to merge their programs.

If the boards of both groups approve an agreement reached by their executives, the Van Ost Institute for Family Living in Englewood, which provides intensive outpatient treatment, will become part of the Vantage Health System, a mental-health treatment program that offers addiction counseling from its Englewood office.

Vantage also runs Touchstone Hall in Rockleigh, a residential treatment center for adolescents with substance-abuse problems, as well as mental health programs around the county.

"We're a good fit for them," said Elaine Van Ost, co-founder of the institute. "We are able to provide services that they don't provide."

"We don't have intensive outpatient-addiction services," added Victoria Sidrow, president of Vantage, "but we have a 50-bed inpatient program for adolescents. We're constantly referring clients to each other. This really fits very nicely into Vantage's continuum of services."

In addition to unifying their substance-abuse services, combining the two organizations would dramatically cut Van Ost's overhead.

It currently pays "substantial rent" to the First Presbyterian Church of Englewood, where its offices are located, according to Van Ost.

Vantage would also take over the expense of billing insurers and clients.

Under the agreement, none of Van Ost's clinical staff would be cut. The institute would continue to operate under its name, as a subsidiary of Vantage.

"The whole Van Ost program would be moved to our site," Sidrow said. "We've agreed to keep the name Van Ost because it has an excellent reputation built up over 25 years."

The institute's outpatient-treatment program focuses on involving a client's family in counseling.

Currently, 87 clients are being treated, according to Drue Seigerman, Van Ost's clinical program coordinator. The institute treats "several hundred clients" annually, he added.

Lisa Gladwell, a member of the Van Ost board, said the organization isn't sure when the agreement will be finalized and the institute will move into Vantage's center on East Palisade Avenue.

"The legal details haven't been worked out yet," she said, adding that she hopes the deal can be finalized soon.


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