Two of Rhode Island’s behavioral health organizations, The Kent Center of Warwick and Riverwood Mental Health Services of Warren, publicly announced this week that they have entered into merger discussions. Boards of both organizations will consider the merger which, if approved, is structured to finalize by March 31.
“It’s just good news,” said Kent Center president and CEO David Lauterbach. He added that the merger will not result in elimination of any staff or programs, but will allow both Kent and Riverwood to expand their reaches and provide more opportunities for the homeless to get help. Lauterbach said that though his role will not change, Riverwood Executive Director Dan Kubas-Meyer would become the Executive VP of the Kent Center.
Lauterbach said four members of the Riverwood Board would join the Kent Board and that Mark Delaney would remain as board chair. As he expects four vacancies on the board, Lauterbach said the board would remain at 15. The larger operation would operate as the Kent Center.
Lauterbach said he initiated discussions with Riverwood with the thought that together they would more capable to deal with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Even should the act may be dismantled as President Trump promises, Lauterbach said, “We’re still stronger this way.”
The Kent Center and Riverwood Mental Health Services tout “a deep competence” in providing care to individuals suffering from behavioral health challenges. “Both organizations are committed to recovery and each brings a unique expertise to the field of behavioral health. As a combined entity, the agency will be well positioned to help advance these values as a new system of integrated behavioral and physical healthcare emerges,” says a press release from the Kent Center. “They share a commitment to a set of guiding principles and values that are trauma-informed and clinically sound. The nonprofit organizations’ missions, guiding principles, and programs directly complement one another.”
Lauterbach estimated that together Kent and Riverwood currently provide services to 5,000 people.
The Kent Center specializes in providing trauma-informed care, and has a lengthy history of working with the criminal justice system and with veterans. Combining forces with Riverwood, whose expertise includes assisting individuals experiencing homelessness, will create a continuum of care that will assist people who are not typically well served in traditional settings. According to a release, together, they will achieve a broader geographical scope, resulting in a greater impact of community mental healthcare services throughout Kent County, Providence, and East Bay.
The Kent Center has provided behavioral health services in the Warwick, West Warwick, East Greenwich, and Coventry area since 1976, employs 200 full- and part-time employees, and has an operating budget of approximately $15 million. Riverwood, which has offices in Providence, Warren and Bristol, has provided behavioral health services since 1982, employs 72 full- and part-time employees, and has an operating budget of approximately $6.2 million.
The merged entity will operate with Riverwood as a division of The Kent Center for Human and Organizational Development. Lauterbach said the two are in the process of combining their budgets.
“We’re excited. It’s a great thing,” Lauterbach said. “We will have a huge array of at least 500 beds available to people [through apartments and group homes]. It’s really quite incredible.”
Kubas-Meyer said housing provided by Riverwood is scattered and designed “to blend into the community.” He said Riverwood has 230 housing units in addition to providing 80 units for its East Bay clients.