Two big agencies in talks on partnering

The Rev. Bruce Stanley
The Rev. Bruce Stanley

Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas and the Methodist Home for Children have begun preliminary talks about finding ways to collaborate in the face of new state policies on delivering human services.

While all discussions are tentative, options include sharing staff or services, possibly employing a psychiatrist or medical director to serve both agencies, although the two groups have not yet discussed the possibility of a merger, says the Rev. Bruce Stanley, president and CEO of the Methodist Home.

“All we’re doing is discussing a broad range of ways we might run alongside of one another,” he says. “We literally have just been doing some ‘what-ifs.'”

Sabrina Goins, communications specialist for Lutheran Family Services, says the talks so far have been exploratory, “putting a lot of ideas on the table and seeing what the best route would be.”

Driving the discussions, Stanley says, has been a move by the state Department of Health and Human Services to require providers of mental-health services that want to accept patients directly to employ a psychiatrist.

The Methodist Home, which employs roughly 200 people and operates with an annual budget of $13 million, does not employ a psychiatrist, Stanley says.

The agency provides a broad range of services in the areas of child care, foster care, adoptions, group residences, family preservation, substance-abuse counseling, scholarships, and training and consulting.

Lutheran Family Services, which employs over 250 people in the Carolinas and operates with an annual budget of $20 million, does employ psychiatrists.

The agency provides a broad range of services in the areas of mental health, adoption, family counseling, foster care, immigration, refugees, supportive and transitional housing, and residential programs.

Under changes it has made in mental-health regulations in recent years, the state has shifted from a system of regional mental-health centers to “local management entities” that have not provided direct services themselves but instead have contracted with other organizations to provide those services.

Now, the state aims to shift to “larger, high-quality providers,” Stanley says.

Under the new system, he says, smaller agencies will have no choice “but to find a partner and be affiliated” with an agency that employs a psychiatrist.

The possible collaboration with the Methodist Home builds on a collaboration Lutheran Family Services has developed with three other agencies to form a new organization that focuses on placing children in foster homes.

Other partners in forming the new Charlotte-based agency, known as Rapid Resources for Families, were Alexander Youth Network, Barium Springs Home for Children, and Easter Seals UCP North Carolina.

“We pool all our resources to help more quickly place children,” Goins says.

Lutheran Family Services’ talks with the Methodist Home focus on “ways we can all help each other,” she says.

“We’re all on the same team,” she says. “We all have the same end goals. Any way we can help each other provide the best services, we’re going to look into those.”

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