Girl Planting seeds

The HackensackUMC Foundation Receives $100,000 Estate Gift to Help Patients with Mental Illness Benefit from New Modalities of Treatment

June 5, 2013 12:04 PM


The HackensackUMC Foundation Receives $100,000 Estate Gift to Help Patients with Mental Illness Benefit from New Modalities of Treatment

The HackensackUMC Foundation has received a $100,000 gift from the estate of Peter Sacco to further the innovative work done by Diego Coira, M.D., chairman of HackensackUMC’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine.

“I was very pleased to have found someone so devoted to what I would describe as a more modern approach to psychiatry and caring for ill people,” said Walter Lesnevich, the Hackensack attorney handling the Sacco estate.  Lesnevich, who met with Dr. Coira, described his approach as “not just drugs and go away, which I don’t think works, but a full holistic approach.”

Sacco’s son, Peter Jr., suffered from schizophrenia and died in a psychiatric unit at the age of 23. His case led to a medical malpractice suit that was ultimately settled.

“There was much more money than we expected,” Lesnevich said. “It sat in numerous bank accounts for 25 years and it’s amazing how money grows.” This gift, made through the HackensackUMC Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the medical center, is given in memory of Peter Sacco Sr. and Peter Sacco Jr.

Dr. Coira said he was sad to hear the story of Peter Sacco. “His son died from a reaction to a high dose of anti psychotic medications.” Looking ahead, he said, “We’re developing programs to treat the whole person with psychotherapy and other modalities, while reducing medication to the minimum needed to treat the illness.”

“My goal,” Dr. Coira said, “is to increase patients’ social connectedness through all modalities, including psychotherapy, music therapy, art therapy and exercise, while reducing the stigma associated with mental illness by educating patients, families and the wider community.” Patients will be treated at HackensackUMC’s new Fitness and Wellness Center.

Lesnevich said anything that can be done to help people with mental illness function better and reduce the stigma would be wonderful. “I’m old enough to remember when cancer could only be said with a hushed whisper. I’d love to see a (charity) run for schizophrenia someday.” 

Dr. Coira describes his work as his passion. “I don’t look at it as illness. I see the potential for wellness and the improvement of patients’ lives and relationships.”


About Hackensack University Medical Center
HackensackUMC, a nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. It is the flagship hospital of the Hackensack University Health Network, one of the largest health networks in the state comprised of 1,140 beds, nearly 10,000 employees and 2,200 credentialed physicians.HackensackUMC was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey and one of the top four New York metro area hospitals by the U.S. News & World Report, and has received nine national rankingsin: Cancer; Cardiology & Heart Surgery; Ear, Nose & Throat; Gastroenterology; Geriatrics; Neurology & Neurosurgery; Orthopedics; Urology; and the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital ranked as one of the Top 25 Best Children’s Hospitals for Neurology and Neurosurgery in the 2012-13 Best Children’s Hospitals list. HackensackUMC is among Healthgrades® America’s Best 100 Hospitals in 10 different areas – more than any other hospital in the nation, is one of Healthgrades America's 50 Best Hospitals™ for seven years in a row, and received the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ 11 years in a row. The medical center has also been named a Leapfrog Top Hospital, and received 19 Gold Seals of Approval™ by the Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence. HackensackUMC is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls, and remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events. To learn more, visit:   




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