Disability groups mull merger

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Two statewide nonprofits that serve people with disabilities, and their families, are studying a possible merger.

United Cerebral Palsy of North Carolina and Easter Seals North Carolina expect soon to examine one another’s books, and their boards could vote in October to merge early in 2004.

“These discussions are a natural extension of the collaborative relationship both organizations have enjoyed in the past,” says Adele Foschia, Easter Seals’ president, who plans to retire.

Spurring the talks are plans by the state to farm out to private agencies a range of services it has provided directly in mental health, developmental disabilities, substance abuse and early-childhood intervention.

Those plans will tighten payments and reduce the number of people eligible for services and the number of patients in institutions, says Connie Cochran, president of UCP.

The two groups say a merger could improve the quality of the services they deliver, streamline operations, help raise money and boost relationships with government and private industry.

Easter Seals has an annual budget of $8.5 million and a staff of 350 full-time and part-time employees. UCP has an annual budget of $27.8 million and employs 800 full-time and part-time employees and contract workers.

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