Help is available, even for the uninsured

In the struggle to find ways to end addiction to alcohol and drugs, we often hear harrowing stories from people who say something like this: I wanted to get help for my loved one, but I spent hours online and on the phone trying to find the right place to treat him. And as hard as I tried, there either weren’t beds available — or our insurance didn’t cover the necessary treatment.

In some other cases, we’ve heard: Don’t have insurance — and they won’t take my loved on without insurance.

These scenarios — and ones like them — are far too often the reality for addicts and their families. The desire to find help is great. Perhaps the addict is even ready to get said help. But frustration sets in fairly quickly because getting that help is often more difficult than getting an audience with the pope.

And yet, not too far away from us — it’s anywhere from 16 to 20 miles from our readership area — rests a place where detoxing is done medically, where programs exist for inpatients and outpatients and where if an addict truly needs help, they’re going to get it.

Regardless of whether they have insurance.

Regardless of whether they can afford to pay for the treatment.

Regardless of how they got to where they are now.

That’s the policy at New Bridge Medical Center, a clinical affiliate of Rutgers University, just a short ride away at 230 E. Ridgewood Ave., Paramus. The medical center offers treatment beginning with medically based detox and leads to all sorts of programs we’ll get into shortly.

Let’s start out with the detox process.

If you’ve never seen what a detox from opioids looks like without medical supervision and medication, consider yourself among the fortunate. At New Bridge, the detox process is completely supervised by professionals. Without such supervision, there’s intense anxiety, sweating, vomiting and many other symptoms. It’s similar with alcohol.

The withdrawal can be so intense, it could actually lead to death.

Too often, people think they’ve got to do it this way — and Hollywood often glamorizes the detox process by showing the addict sitting on a couch, throwing up in a cooking pan, sweating, hallucinating sometimes. Think of the way Dr. Gregory House detoxed from his pain-killer addictions on the TV show “House M.D.” if you ever saw that show.

(What made that show even worse was that it was a medical drama, and yet they left out the concept of a medical detox.)

At New Bridge, it’s done the right way.

Michael Paolello is the chief clinical officer at New Bridge. He explains why it’s vitally important to detox medically.

“It’s important to keep safe during the detox process,” he said. “And the continuum of care following detox is as important — whether it’s inpatient rehabilitation, intense outpatient care, aftercare with meetings, it’s all very important.”

To ease the discomfort caused by the withdrawal symptoms, medications are used, but are strictly supervised by doctors. Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is one of the medications used — and is taken daily to ease the withdrawal symptoms. It also causes causes the euphoric effects of opioids from being achieved. Vivitrol is another medication used that has similar effects, but it’s injected once a month — and has the same desired effect on an addict as Suboxone.

Once the detox process is completed — there are 80+ detox beds there, making it the largest in the state — there are numerous programs available to addicts as Paolello mentioned earlier in this story. He says the goal of New Bridge is to make sure once an addicts are treated, it’s the one and only time they’re there.

“It’s our job to make sure they don’t come back,” Paolello said. “Kids and people are dying in this crisis. Preventing them from returning here is the ultimate goal.

Another stigma free place

In The Observer’s continuing coverage of the opioid crisis, we’ve often discussed the importance of erasing the associated stigmas.

For New Bridge’s Donnalee Corrieri, vice president of marketing and public relations, stressing the hospital’s stigma-free operation is critical.

“Addiction is a disease and as such, we have the responsibility to treat every patient with respect and dignity,” Corrieri said. “Stigmas cannot be a barrier causing patients not to receive treatment. When someone walks in the doors here, they will never be judged. They will always be in a stigma-free environment. We see people of all walks of life here … whether it’s someone who has never been to college to people with graduate degrees.

“Our staff understands what people are going through.”

Family must be there

Paolello says another critical component to successful treatment at New Bridge includes family involvement.

“There is a strong family component to recovery,” Paolello said. “We involved families as much as we can.”

Why he came to New Bridge

Paolello says before he came to New Bridge, he was involved in addiction treatment in Hudson County. The Belleville native and Queen of Peace High School alumnus says New Bridge’s status as a “safety net” hospital was one of the biggest reasons he made the move.

“As a safety net hospital, we get referrals from people with insurance, people with no insurance, people with nowhere to go — and that is unfair,” Paolello said. “Here, we say come. We say welcome. We say we want to help.”

Corrieri echoed Paolello’s sentiments.

“We are dedicated to the care of the under insured and the uninsured,” she said. “You will get treatment here if you want it. Simply make the call.

How do they do it?

Given the immense costs associated with addiction treatment, both Paolello and Corrieri say it all starts at the top with Deborah Visconi, the president and CEO of New Bridge.

“We have a great administration,” Paolello said. “Deb is a visionary dedicated to ensuring that anyone who needs treatment finds a way to get it.

Clearly, that visionary way of doing things finds its way to all levels at New Bridge Medical Center.

Do you need help? Someone you know need help?

If you are an addict — or you know of someone who is and who needs help — New Bridge Medical Center has a 24/7/365 Substance Abuse Services Hotline at 800-730-2762. The hospital’s website,, has a ton of information about its programs, resources and other available services for mental-health issues.

If you are in immediate need of help, you may contact The Observer’s Lisa Feorenzo at or Kevin Canessa at Both Feorenzo and Canessa have direct access to New Bridge and can help to expedite getting addicts the help they need — either at New Bridge or elsewhere if necessary.

Learn more about the writer ...

Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.