(Source: Provided)
(Source: Provided)

Two local nonprofits that provide health services to low-income and underserved communities in Lancaster County are joining forces.

Lancaster Health Center and Welsh Mountain Health Centers said Monday that their respective boards voted unanimously Oct. 29 to approve a merger.

Alisa Jones, Lancaster Health Center president and CEO, will be CEO of the unified health organization. Her counterpart at Welsh Mountain, Jackie Concepcion, will serve as vice president of community initiatives.

The two organizations share the same mission, and they are confident the alliance "will allow us to grow stronger," Jones said in a statement.

The merger requires state approval. That is expected to take several months, during which Lancaster Health Center and Welsh Mountain plan to select a new name and develop branding.

“To blend services rather than compete for funding and duplicate efforts is an ideal fit for our patients,” said David Kreider, Lancaster Health Center board chairman.

The merger will allow the two organizations to share expertise and deploy grants "in larger, more innovative ways," he said.

Said Welsh Mountain Health Centers Board Chair, Dr. Vincent Glielmi: “It's important for our patients that both of our organizations come together and share one mission so that we can provide a stronger network of care."

The organizations said they expect to reduce joint operating expenses and that staff, services and locations will be "thoughtfully aligned" in the course of the merger. They did not immediately provide additional details.

"We will continue seeing patients at all of our existing locations," Nicole Specht, spokeswoman for Lancaster Health Center, said.

At present, the two organizations have staffs totaling 275 individuals and combined budgets of $28.1 million. They serve about 35,000 patients, providing primary care, dental care, behavioral health and social services.

Lancaster Health Center has five locations, all in Lancaster County; Welsh Mountain has five locations in Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

Both are federally qualified health centers, community-based entities that receive federal reimbursement for providing primary care in underserved areas.

Federally qualified health centers must offer services on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay, and they must have grassroots patient representation on their boards.

Nationwide, there are nearly 1,400 health centers serving nearly 30 million individuals, or one out of every 11 Americans.

The Lancaster County Community Foundation provided a $20,000 grant to help the two organizations explore a merger.

"We commend the leadership of these two amazing local health pillars for having the courage to take this step and the determination to do this work even better," Dave Koser, the foundation's director of programs, said in a statement.

Tim Stuhldreher