ESSEX, MORRIS MENTAL HEALTH AGENCIES TO MERGE
The Montclair Times - 5/11/2017
The Mental Health Association of Essex County, Inc., a nonprofit mental health agency based on South Fullerton Avenue in Montclair, and the Mental Health Association of Morris County, headquartered in Mountain Lakes, will merge into a single healthcare provider serving both counties, the association announced on April 27.
The new organization, set to officially launch Aug. 1, will operate as the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris Inc.
"This merger is something that makes absolute sense for all parties involved in that it takes two strong, viable, community-based agencies and unites them into a single entity with even greater capacity to serve individuals and families in our communities whose lives are affected by mental illness," stated MHAEC Executive Director Robert N. Davison, who will serve as president and CEO of the new association.
"We made the decision to merge now because ultimately we want to do the right thing for our consumers, their families, and the communities we serve," Davison said during an interview with The Montclair Times before the merger contract was to be signed in an afternoon ceremony.
"It's a move to save money so we can maintain the services," noted Davison. "We want to be more efficient so we can ensure the money hits the street where the people need it."
The organization is particularly concerned about threats at the federal level to cut Medicaid funding.
"The state is transitioning to fee-for-service, which will increase our reliance on Medicaid. So the public mental health system, the safety net if you will, is extremely reliant on Medicaid," Davison said.
The two county associations are so closely aligned in their mission and values that they can ensure the services are maintained, Davison believes.
Clients will have access to the same programs, case managers and doctors. "As a result of the merger, there will be no changes at the program level," he said.
The CEO of the Morris County operation, Louis A. Schwarcz, "of his own volition, will be moving on," Davison said.
The organization anticipates a savings of about $300,000 in other administrative cuts, he noted.
"We'll continue to operate in Montclair and Morris County because we need to be where the consumers are," he said.
Schwarcz has identified "the best interests of all concerned" as his reason for initiating the transition into a single agency.
"I truly believe that Morris and Essex becoming one dynamic service provider for much of the northern New Jersey region will provide the greatest benefit to the consumers and families we serve which, at the end of the day, is what matters most," Schwarcz said in a statement.
"The Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris will represent strength, stability, and greater collective capacity for our staff, our volunteers and our supporters to advance our shared mission well into the foreseeable future," he stated.
Since 1950, the Mental Health Association of Essex County has been providing services to individuals suffering from severe and persistent mental illness and other behavioral health challenges, according to a release.
The Mental Health Association of Morris County, founded in 1953, has been providing similar programs and services to consumers and families in its service area.
The agencies are primarily funded through the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
On any given day, the Essex association serves about 1,000 people, and Morris services about 850, Davison said.