On April 12, 2014 the HackensackUMC Foundation proudly dedicated the Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine at the HackensackUMC Fitness & Wellness Center in Maywood during an emotional ceremony, which honored the life of Debra Simon (formerly of Saddle River, NJ) who passed away in 2009.
“We are incredibly grateful to the family of Debra Simon. Through their donation, thousands of our patients’ lives
will be improved,” said Robert C. Garrett, president and chief executive officer of Hackensack University Health Network. “This pavilion truly reflects our commitment to treatment of the entire patient --- both physically and mentally. Although time cannot heal her family’s loss, Debra’s name will live on through this meaningful and important project.”
The family of Debra Simon partnered with the HackensackUMC Foundation to see the center through to its completion. The process began four years ago, after Debra Simon committed suicide following a battle with depression. At the time of her death, Debra was living in southern California.
“My mom always shared the importance of supporting your local community through charitable efforts,” said Lauren Wright, daughter of Debra Simon. “After she died, I started to think about how her legacy could live on. This began the partnership with HackensackUMC. If we are able to help just one person struggling with any facet of their life, especially depression, then we have done our job.”
Through the Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine at HackensackUMC has been able to expand its psychotherapy program, including the addition of four psychotherapists. The overall goal of the program is to reduce the unnecessary use of psychiatric medications and strengthen the psychotherapy division to better serve the needs of patients.
“Being located at the Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine not only helps us address the whole person (mind, body, spirit) but also allows us to reduce the stigma of mental illness,” said Diego Coira, M.D., chairman, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine, HackensackUMC. “In the spirit of wellness, any individual can step into our beautiful facility and see their primary care physician, their behavioral health practitioner and/or go to the gym and exercise.”
Lauren worked with Dr. Coira on the concept behind the Debra Simon Center, which would carry on her mother’s legacy of helping others and at the same time, help people struggling with behavioral issues.
In addition to behavioral health services, the Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine includes the MOLLY Diabetes Education/Management Center for Adults and Children, physical therapy, a women’s health center with mammography and bone density screening, and a large community health education area with a demonstration cooking studio.
“Hackensack University Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation and it happens to be in our own backyard,” said Lauren Wright. “I thought it was a perfect fit. And, specifically, I wanted to support the psychiatry department in hopes of continuing the great therapy work that Dr. Coira and his team do on a daily basis. My hope is to ultimately prevent another family from having to go through what my family has had to endure from the loss of suicide.”