AltaPointe Health, Cheaha Regional Mental Health Center join forces

Merger:  AltaPointe Health, Cheaha Regional Mental Health Center join forces

Patients can expect better access to services and a broader continuum of care

The merger of AltaPointe Health and Cheaha Regional Mental Health Center (CRMHC) became official, Aug. 1, 2016, making AltaPointe the largest and most comprehensive behavioral healthcare provider in the state. This is only the second merger of two Alabama community mental health centers with the first coming in 2014 when AltaPointe and Baldwin County Mental Health Center merged.

CRMHC headquartered in Sylacauga, will now operate under the name and corporate umbrella of AltaPointe, which is headquartered in Mobile.

“AltaPointe began a new and exciting era this week,” Tuerk Schlesinger, AltaPointe CEO, said. “The southwest and central northeast regions of Alabama now have a better, broader-based system in place to provide additional as well as more accessible behavioral healthcare services.”

The merger came about, in part, because of decreased and stagnant funding of behavioral healthcare services. Major changes on the horizon for the behavioral healthcare industry that will require increased financial resources were also a catalyst.

The merger expanded AltaPointe’s service area (under Alabama Act 310) of Mobile, Washington, and Baldwin counties to include Clay, Coosa, Randolph and Talladega counties. With this merger, AltaPointe will employ 1,450 and provide treatment to more than 30,000 individuals annually.

“AltaPointe welcomes its new employees, patients, and partners in the Sylacauga region,” Schlesinger said. “Together, with our existing employees and partners, AltaPointe can achieve great things for individuals living with mental illness, substance abuse and developmental disability who we serve. With an expanded system, we can respond more effectively to changes in healthcare.”

Merger is unlike typical for-profit mergers

“This is not a merger like one might read about in the for-profit world,” Schlesinger said. “There was neither a buyout nor a downsizing, and there were no layoffs; in fact, there will be an expansion of services and an increase in the use of advanced technology.”

According to Cindy Atkinson, who served as the CRMHC Executive Director before the merger, said the center found itself searching for ways to provide services in the face of diminishing financial support. “We believe joining forces with AltaPointe will build one single, stronger, more efficient organization that will withstand the changing healthcare environment and better serve our communities,” she said.

“Over a period of nearly two years, the AltaPointe and CRMHC boards of directors thoroughly investigated the needs of both organizations and recognized the wisdom of the merger,” Schlesinger continued. “They were diligent, patient and understanding as we pored over the multitude of details required to bring about the merger.”

Merger brings more resources, more services

Atkinson, who is now the AltaPointe Associate Executive Director of Community Mental Health for the Sylacauga Region, went on to say that the former CRMHC already has begun utilizing AltaPointe’s resources.

“We have implemented electronic medical records technology, which gives our staff easier access to patient information,” she said. “We also now have the great benefit of AltaPointe’s administrative services systems such as billing, budgeting and payroll.”

The merger also gives the Sylacauga region access to AltaPointe’s 25 full-time psychiatrists and 10 psychiatric CRNPs who regularly use tele-psychiatry to provide services remotely. Before the merger, CRMHC employed two, part-time psychiatrists.

AltaPointe’s unique educational and clinical collaboration with the University of South Alabama College of Medicine also benefits the Sylacauga region through the support of USA’s psychiatry residents who train at AltaPointe’s facilities.

Schlesinger emphasized that “everyone wins” with this merger. “AltaPointe benefits from the merger by being able to expand its centralized administrative system so that it can reallocate resources into services and grow stronger in scope,” he said. “However, the biggest winners will be the men, women and children who need our services to survive and function. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is the right thing to do for them.”

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AltaPointe Health is Alabama’s most comprehensive and largest regional community behavioral health provider of inpatient, outpatient and resident treatment to more than 30,000 children, adolescents and adults annually in Mobile, Baldwin, Washington, Clay, Coosa, Randolph and Talladega counties. The organization was established in 1957 in Mobile. AltaPointe is committed to enhancing the quality of life for everyone it serves.


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