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Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Celina social service agencies merge to maximize funding

By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - Administrative positions will be axed when a pair of local social service agencies merge in November to cut costs.
Officials from Foundations Behavioral Health Services and Gateway Outreach Center, both based in Celina, announced the venture to Mercer County Commissioners on Tuesday. The merger is effective Nov. 1.
An undetermined number of administrative positions will be terminated to avoid duplication of duties and to save money as state and federal funds dwindle, agency officials said. The executive director position at Gateway, now held by Teresa Smith, is one of the positions being abolished.
"We're top heavy in administration," said Foundations executive director Brian Engle, who will serve as director over the combined organization.
Foundations employs 35 people; Gateway has six, he said. Both are private, nonprofit agencies that contract with individuals and organizations to provide services such as counseling and court-ordered drug testing.
The new organization will retain the Foundations name and continue serving clients at both locations - 4761 state Route 29 and 800 Pro Drive. The rural location, next to the Mercer County jail, may be expanded as a single site in the future.
Foundations presently specializes in mental health services, and Gateway focuses on substance abuse issues such as alcohol and drug addiction. When the agencies combine, all services will be offered at both locations instead of the current practice of making referrals to one another, officials said.
"For 35 years we've operated as separate agencies," said Keith Turvy, director of Tri County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services, a fiscal agent for both agencies.
Discussion on the merger first arose more than a decade ago and resurfaced again about three years ago, officials said. Turvy said the decision mirrors the state's shared services plan to make better use of tax dollars and balance budgets.
"Funding is an issue ... I think both boards recognized that," he said. "We're trying to be proactive in these times of diminishing funds."
Engle agreed.
"It's just a sign of what's happening everywhere," he said.
Turvy said the idea made sense but during ongoing meetings the question kept coming up: Is this best for our clients? Foundations board member Sherry Shaffer thinks it is.
"By combining agencies, we're more efficient and that leads to more money available for more services," she said. "It's the best thing for the clients of Mercer County."
Turvy said the financial savings means good things in the future.
"I think in a year or two we'll see some really neat stuff come out of this," he said.
Officials said seven current board members from Foundations and four from Gateway will make up the new board.
"We've got a lot of critical thinkers on those boards," Turvy added.
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