Newswise — Perth Amboy, NJ – December 14, 2021 – Hackensack Meridian Raritan Bay Medical Center Foundation received a gift of $300,000 from the Morris and Clara Weshnak Family Foundation, administered by Barry and Carol Anne Cawley Weshnak, that will establish the Barry and Carol Weshnak Behavioral Health Fund at Hackensack Meridian Raritan Bay Medical Center, located in Perth Amboy. The gift, made in honor of Mayer Ezer, M.D., FACP, internal medicine program director at Raritan Bay Medical Center and Barry and Carol Anne’s personal physician, will provide support for an additional nurse certified in substance abuse, or dually certified in substance abuse and psychiatric-mental health, and will fund the position over the next three years.

“The U.S. has long faced a critical shortage of inpatient behavioral health care units, with devastating societal consequences,” said William DiStanislao, MS, MPA, interim president and chief hospital executive of Raritan Bay Medical Center. “We have seen an extraordinary increase in the need for inpatient behavioral health and substance abuse services over the years and the pandemic catapulted that increase into overdrive. This generous gift from Barry and Carol Anne will greatly help us continue to provide the highest level of care to our patients by ensuring that our team is properly educated and prepared to address the unique needs of those impacted by behavioral health and substance abuse disorders.”

Substance abuse and mental illness co-occur in up to half of all people experiencing either of these issues. Certified substance abuse nurses are registered nurses who specialize in pain management and behavioral psychology and are educated in how to support patients undergoing therapy for drug or alcohol rehabilitation. Throughout treatment, substance abuse nurses assess patients, working alongside doctors to determine each patient’s unique needs to develop treatment plans. They monitor pain levels, medication dosages and mental and physical symptoms, educate families on the process of detox and rehabilitation and often provide resources for maintaining psychological health throughout the process.

“Addiction can be a multifaceted disease, which results in the need for inpatient dual diagnosis treatment,” says Dr. Ezer. “In these cases, alcohol and drugs have often been used to self-medicate, or their use results in brain changes that lead to emotional or psychological disorders. To recover fully, dual diagnosis treatment is required to address these problems, clear the path to sobriety and better ensure success in rehabilitation and relapse prevention. The addition of a certified substance abuse nurse will not only have an impact on more patients, but will be crucial as we anticipate growth and an increased need for dual diagnosis and treatment.”

In addition to the immediate impact on patients, the addition of certified substance abuse nurses will play a role in the future expansion of behavioral health services at Raritan Bay Medical Center as the hospital looks to grow these services for the community.

“There has  never been a greater need for increased services for behavioral health and substance abuse disorder treatment,” says Barry Weshnak. “We are so fortunate to be able to provide this gift to help make a difference in the lives of New Jersey residents facing one, or both, of these complicated issues. We hope that it will benefit all those in need.”

For more information about how you can support the behavioral health or substance abuse disorder programs at Raritan Bay Medical Center,  please contact Melissa Magyar, executive director, Raritan Bay Medical Center Foundation, at 732-324-5376, [email protected] or visit

About Hackensack Meridian Raritan Bay Medical Center

For more than 100 years, Hackensack Meridian Raritan Bay Medical Center and Old Bridge Bridge Medical Center have provided a full continuum of health care services to residents of Central Jersey. Raritan Bay Medical Center is one of less than one percent of hospitals in the world to achieve Magnet Recognition, the “Gold Standard” for nursing practice, quality, and safety in patient care, four times. In 2019, U.S. News & World Report ranked Raritan Bay Medical Center as high performing in Orthopedics, Nephrology, COPD and Heart Failure.  

The medical center is a New Jersey state designated Primary Stroke Center and recipient of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get with the Guidelines® Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award, recognizing optimal treatment of stroke patients. Raritan Bay is also a recipient of the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the AHA’s Heart Check Mark for Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers and the AHA’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award recognizing high-quality care of patients experiencing a severe heart attack.

As part of Hackensack Meridian Health, one of New Jersey’s most comprehensive health networks, the Pediatric Care Center in Perth Amboy is supported by more than 100 pediatric specialists who collaborate with its pediatricians to make children’s health care easier to navigate. For more information, visit


Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit healthcare organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune and JFK University Medical Center in Edison; one university teaching hospital – Ocean University Medical Center in Brick; two children’s hospitals - Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; eight community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Old Bridge Medical Center in Old Bridge, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals - JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness center, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 36,000 team members, and 7,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having more top-ranked hospitals than anyone in New Jersey, as recognized by U.S. News & World Report, 2021-22. Hackensack University Medical Center is the only hospital in New Jersey with the #1 adult and children’s hospital rankings.

John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center is New Jersey's best cancer center, as recognized by U.S. News & World Report, 2021-22.  This premier cancer center is also the largest and most comprehensive center dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, management, research, screenings, and preventive care as well as survivorship of patients with all types of cancers. John Theurer Cancer Center is part of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. 

Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to ensure that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its campus in Nutley and Clifton. The Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), housed in a fully renovated state-of-the-art facility, seeks to translate current innovations in science to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening and disabling conditions.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies. To learn more, visit  

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