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New Jersey
Matheny Medical and Educational Center Matheny Takes Wheelchair Seating, Mobility Expertise into the Community
Story Number is : 082910136
Matheny Medical and Educational Center

The Matheny Medical and Educational Center is located in Peapack, New Jersey.
Matheny’s seating and mobility clinic specializes in providing everything from the most basic manual wheelchairs to sophisticated power mobility and power seating systems.
The Workshop on Wheels enables Matheny to bring samples of equipment to clients throughout New Jersey.
Matheny nurses dispense more than 1 million doses of medication a year to keep their patients healthy.
The Matheny Medical and Educational Center’s seating and mobility assistive technology clinic is a highly intensive and personalized service which provides the perfect match of assistive technology to individuals with developmental disabilities. Occupational therapists, physical therapists and rehabilitation technicians work as a team to help patients choose the assistive technology tools that best meet their needs and provide ease of care.

The clinic specializes in providing custom seating and mobility devices, from the most basic manual wheelchairs to the most sophisticated power mobility and power seating systems, designed to optimize function and minimize deformities for individuals with severe physical impairments.

In 2005, Matheny received a grant from the Merck Company Foundation, which enabled it to purchase and equip a van, which serves as a mobile workstation stocked with seating evaluation supplies, a variety of wheelchair seating cushions and backs, wheelchair tires, accessories, hardware and tools. In the past year, from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, the “Workshop on Wheels” provided service to more than 150 individuals in seven counties. Clients include the Woodbridge Developmental Center; the Newark School District; Spectrum for Living, River Vale, NJ; the Sussex County Arc (SCARC), Sparta, NJ; Abilities of Northwest New Jersey; and Special Children’s School, Sparta, NJ.

“The biggest thing that the van has allowed us to do,” says Dan O’Neill, director of rehabilitation technology, “is to bring samples of equipment and improve our evaluation process for people who can’t necessarily get to Matheny. When our rehab technician goes out, he knows the general needs of the individuals he may be evaluating, so he can now add the cushions, the equipment, the wheelchairs themselves. It’s more meaningful if you can see what he’s talking about rather than just depending upon a catalog and a picture. And he now has the ability to fix problems as they’re occurring in the community. It just enhances his ability to fix those problems on the spot, rather than taking someone’s mobility away from them and bringing it back to Matheny for repair.

Matheny rehab technicians and therapists are certified as assistive technology practitioners and suppliers by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).

While approximately 70% of Matheny’s inpatients have cerebral palsy as their primary diagnoses, the medical complexities of Matheny patients has increased over the years. Matheny patients have a long list of associated clinical conditions such as vision and hearing deficits, seizure disorders, mental retardation and dysphagia, with resulting aspiration problems.

In addition to cerebral palsy, Matheny has patients with spina bifida, Lesch-Nyhan Disease (LND) and a wide range of uncommon conditions including Rett syndrome, Angelman syndrome, Cornelia De Lange syndrome, Wolf-Hirshorn syndrome and 4Q Deletion syndrome. Lesch-Nyhan Disease is a rare x-linked recessive disorder associated with cognitive impairment, high levels of uric acid in the blood, kidney involvement and the hallmark symptom – severe and involuntary self-injurious behaviors. Matheny is recognized as the leading source of information on care issues regarding LND.

The increased need for care of patients with these types of medically complex conditions has made it imperative that Matheny expand in order to reach out to families who have nowhere else to turn. Among planned renovations at an expanded and modernized Matheny are: a new pediatric wing, increasing the capacity to 140 beds; the conversion of three-bedded rooms to more home-like two-bedded rooms; and construction of a modern special education school containing spacious, student-friendly, fully accessible classrooms.

A special hospital for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities, Matheny is also a special education school providing academics, combined with functional life skills, for students, ages 3-21. . . a comprehensive outpatient center meeting the needs of people with all types of disabilities in the community. . . and a teaching hospital developing ways to train healthcare professionals, therapists and educators in how to work effectively and appropriately with persons who have developmental disabilities.

Matheny’s main campus in Peapack, NJ, is home to 101 children and adults with developmental disabilities. Its five group homes, located in Somerset and Warren counties, provide a residence in the community for an additional 30 adults.
The Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry, the outpatient clinic, now provides services to more than 600 patients from 12 New Jersey counties. Services available include dentistry, adaptive seating and mobility evaluations, primary care, therapies, women’s health, neurology, optometry, physiatry and urology. The dental clinic is a partnership with UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School, with funding support from the New Jersey Health Initiatives Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Delta Dental Plan of New Jersey Foundation. In addition to its Workshop on Wheels, Matheny is committed to spreading its in-house expertise into the community in other ways:
• Matheny’s therapists, teachers, social workers, psychologists, nutritionists and nurses participate in the Somerset, Morris and Hunterdon County Special Child Health Services Early Intervention Programs, designed to enhance the ability of families to meet the needs of infants and toddlers who have disabilities or delays in development. Experience has shown that early detection and treatment helps children to perform at levels closer to those of their peers.

• As many school districts are faced with shrinking budgets, Matheny is offering special education solutions to public and private schools in Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties. Through its Matheny Therapy Solutions program, Matheny is providing certified practitioners in occupational, physical and speech therapy and rehab technology on a part-time or full-time basis to help school districts enhance learning for special needs students.

• Matheny’s Arts Access Program, which makes it possible for people with disabilities to create fine art, assisted by professional artist-facilitators, is reaching out to the community by training other facilities for people with disabilities to adapt the program for their clients.

Recognizing that it can’t provide care for everyone, Matheny has taken on the responsibility of ensuring that future healthcare professionals understand how to care for and treat persons with disabilities. Matheny is a teaching hospital for the Medical and Dental Schools of UMDNJ. Matheny has also established internship and training programs with close to 100 colleges and universities.

Matheny is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). The Matheny School is accredited by the commission on Elementary Schools and the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

No Nursing Shortage at Matheny
There is no nursing shortage at Matheny. “We have affiliations with four colleges,” says Cathy Church, MPA, BS, RN, director of nursing services. “We have gotten positive feedback from all of those affiliations, and it has really boosted our ability to recruit.” Nursing students from County College of Morris, Merit Technical Institute in Hudson County, Raritan Valley Community College and Warren County Community College do their pediatric rotations at Matheny, and, according to Church, “they really get to spend time with the patients when they’re here.”

Because of the long-term nature of Matheny’s patients, the focus, Church says, is “on keeping our patients well so they can participate in as much as possible. It’s an environment in which nurses can get to know their patients and ultimately to be very involved in everything that’s going on with them. They develop relationships with the patients. They know all the subtle differences and changes in their behavior, and, since many of our patients can’t communicate verbally, they have to really be able to observe. We have a very good retention rate for all of our staff – nurses and direct care staff, which is part of the nursing department. Our staff has been at full capacity for the past two or three years.” Typically, Church says, someone will be hired as a per diem nurse, but, “if an opening comes up for a primary nurse or a full-time nurse, one of our per diem nurses will want to step into that role. They know our patients because they’re very consistent and work here every week. So, they become part of the Matheny family themselves.”

Matheny works on a primary nurse system. “On the day shift,” explains Church, “our nurses work a five-day work week. They’re responsible for a lot of the appointment setting, working with families and doctors and doing the reports on the patients. But we also have consistent nurses on our evening staff so that all of our patients have their nurse for the day, the evening and even the nighttime. The direct care workers (personal care assistants) are part of a nursing unit that includes a PCA supervisor and a nursing unit care manager who’s responsible for coordinating care on the unit (24/7).”
The nursing department consists of about 80 staff members, about 10 of whom are administrative. Teamwork, Church stresses, is critical at Matheny. “The nursing department,” she says, “is really intermingled with every other department in the facility. You have to be able to be a team player in this environment, much more so than in a lot of facilities where the patients come and go. Everyone here is in a circle together, taking care of the patient. Nurses here,” she adds, “don’t always practice in a traditional hospital nursing unit. They may be giving medications at the swimming pool or at the prom. We gave over a million doses of medications in the last year.”

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