Carrier Clinic — an inpatient psychiatric and substance abuse treatment center in Belle Mead — provides short-term, acute care hospitalization for psychiatric illness and substance abuse for youths and adults. At the year’s first Montgomery Township committe meeting, residents, said they lay awake at night speculating over dangers to the community after a number of patients have wandered around Belle Mead after eloping from the facility.
The Nixle alert system broadcasted messages about escapee patients who the police were looking for around Montgomery, and at times, in the woods or on residents’ properties. A few times, residents said, alerts were sent out up to an hour after cops showed up at their front doors to search their properties and inform residents of the situations.
“It’s just that they’ve been getting out more and more, and I am just wondering what’s going on? Jim Hunt asked. “I know police are out doing their job…(But) people have gotten out and stolen cars. I along with the rest of the neighbors want to get the message out that they gotta do something to keep the patients in.”
Christopher Lamorticella and his wife Diane live on Broadway in Belle Mead. “I have lived here for 22 years and if I saw somebody looking for an escaped individual from Carrier, it would be about once in three years, and that person would be a Carrier staff member looking for them,” Christopher testified. “Within the last week, I’ve had two visits from the police to search inside my garage, looking for missing people.”
Broadway resident Sharon Hague has lived near Carrier since 1975. She said one outcome of Carrier’s merger with Meridian Health is that could become a bigger facility. “I also understand that if patients voluntarily go in then they can voluntarily go out,” Hague said. “But somebody at the facility has to be responsible for their whereabouts. And if our police are out at Carrier, then that is taking away safety and time to attend to the rest of the township.”
“There’s no reason why a fence can’t be put up at Carrier. I know it isn’t going to look pretty, but unfortunately you have got dangerous people.”
Donald Parker, president of Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic, said in January email: “Carrier Clinic is aware of the comments from the public. Carrier is currently working on a fencing system that will deter elopement of patients. We will be presenting our plan to the township as soon as our design is completed.
“Our security department will participate in those meetings to explain how we work with the Montgomery Police Department and other local organizations to promote the safety of the community we are a part of as well as serve our patients.”