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Lee Mental Health and SWFAS Announce Merger

New Entity Named “SalusCare” 

FORT MYERS, Fla., July 1, 2013 – More than one year of negotiation has culminated in the merger of Southwest Florida Addiction Services (SWFAS) and Lee Mental Health, forming the largest mental health and substance abuse treatment agency in Southwest Florida.

The merger combines the resources of the two non-profit agencies, effective July 1, under the new name of “SalusCare, Inc.,” drawing on the Latin roots of “Salus,” (pronounced “Sail-us”) meaning health, prosperity and safety, which reflects the focus of the new organization.

SalusCare, Inc., will be led by CEO Kevin B. Lewis with Lee Mental Health Center President & CEO David Winters serving as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).  Other members of the management team are Dr. Don Baracskay, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO), Susan Nobles as Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Tim Parham as Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Members of the governing Board of Directors were selected from each of the not-for-profit agencies.  Officers are Marshall Bower, President  & CEO of The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, Inc., chairman; Lee County Tax Collector Larry Hart, vice chair; Attorney William Keyes, secretary; and Ed Kleinow, treasurer.

Other members of the Board of Directors are Sue Ackert; Mark S. Atkins, Lee Memorial Health System; Dena Geraghty, Lee County Dependency & Juvenile Drug Court; Dr. Judith Hartner, Lee County Health Department; Attorney Scot D. Goldberg, Goldberg, Racila, D’Alessandro and Noone; Dr. Madelyn Isaacs, Florida Gulf Coast University; Jim Reilly; and Geoff Roepstorff, Edison National Bank.

The SalusCare corporate office will be at 3763 Evans Ave. in Fort Myers, phone 239-332-6937.

“The SalusCare Board is enthused about the future of this new not-for-profit organization that we believe will give our community what it needs most – a cohesive system of behavioral healthcare to address the needs of individuals with mental health and substance use issues,” Bower said.  “Our first year plan is to implement electronic medical records to enable us to share information across campuses.  When we do that, we can increase access points for care and serve more people in need of treatment.”

Approximately one in four individuals have or will have a mental health disorder at some time during their lives; the incidence of substance use affects one in eight individuals.  Florida currently is 49th in the nation in per capita funding for mental health services.

“The aim is improved care for patients with a seamless system of behavioral health care and better access to care from multiple locations in Lee County,” Lewis said. “The Boards of both companies see this as a key step to improve current services, and move toward a model of integrated care with other health providers in our community.”

There will be no disruption of services, Winters said.

“Patients who are accustomed to visiting the SWFAS Evans Avenue location will continue to receive services at that site.  Patients of Lee Mental Health will continue to receive services at the Ortiz Avenue location,” Winters said.

While there may be some cost savings in the consolidation, Lewis and Winters said that is not the major reason for the merger and any potential savings will be invested in increased care. No layoffs or closing of offices are anticipated.

Together, Lee Mental Health Center and SWFAS operate with annual budgets of just under $30 million and 450 employees serving 17,000 patients per year from eight locations in Lee and Hendry counties.  The majority of programs offered by both companies are accredited by CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

The merger brings the history of the two organizations full circle.  Lee Mental Health was chartered in 1969.  SWFAS traces its roots to 1972 when it was part of Lee Mental Health Center.  The alcohol treatment program nearly closed in 1979 when Lee Mental Health felt that the state was underfunding this portion of the program.  A volunteer citizens group chartered themselves as a separate 501(c)(3) and Southwest Florida Alcoholism Services, Inc. (SWFAS) began active management in 1980.  The name was changed to Southwest Florida Addiction Services in 1985 to encompass the dual addictions of drugs and alcohol.