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Crisis center, counseling service consider merger

Feb 15, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

State funding for both programs is expected to be scaled back.

Budget cuts have led officials of the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center and Fremont Counseling Services to look into combining efforts. The executive directors of both organizations told the Fremont County Commission that they are considering a merger.

"I believe we can work together to get more people into treatment from the alcohol crisis center," Fremont Counseling Services executive director Jerry McAdams said. "Which is one of the issues we constantly deal with, getting people enrolled in treatment."

He also said the state is cutting funding to both programs.

Fremont Counseling Services is a nonprofit mental health and substance abuse center with locations in Riverton and Lander. The alcohol crisis center is a 24-hour, adult detoxification center in Riverton.

Both executive directors expressed concern over whether their organizations could survive the cuts. They said they think merging could help them get by.

"If we don't do (it), we might not be in existence," crisis center executive director Lisa Amos said.

In a letter, the executive directors of both organizations said they want to finish the merger by July 1, but they will likely complete it some time in the second half of 2013. They attribute the delay to a requirement that both organizations achieve national accreditation for their substance abuse programs.

The letter listed some benefits of a merger as: "It will maximize the use of local, state and agency funds ... It will help maximize the use of human resources and financial resources. ... We will shift focus from not just crisis management/detox, but instead to crisis management/detox and immediate treatment in the County."

If they merge, the new organization will continue all of the services of the two current agencies, the executive directors said.

Amos said the organizations do not overlap in what they provide, so they will not have redundant programs they would have to cut.

She added both boards would likely continue for some time after the merger to protect the services each provides.

"But I understand what happens if the services go away," Amos said. "That's our initial fear, that the services will go away because of a lack of funding."

Some parts of the agencies may face cuts, however.

Commission chairman Doug Thompson asked how merging would solve the lack of funding.

"It's not the answer to reduced revenue, but I think there will be some opportunities to reduce positions like payroll people at the alcohol crisis center, because Jerry (McAdams) has that system set up (at Fremont Counseling)," Amos said.

Commissioner Keja Whiteman said she was concerned because the county board typically gives money to support both agencies, and questioned how much the merged organization would request.

"I don't know the needs at this point, what the revenue cuts are, what the administrative savings will be, or how they'll measure out," she said. "I'd encourage you to ask us for what you need and not more."

Amos said it would probably be a year before the agency would know where it was saving money.

McAdams said they would take more concrete steps toward a merger after both boards meet this month.

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