Centerstone and Uspiritus

In a move intended to broaden their impact, two area nonprofits dedicated to serving at-risk youth announced Wednesday that they intended to merge.

Centerstone Kentucky, formerly Seven Counties Services, and Uspiritus, itself a merged entity of Bellewood Home for Children and Brooklawn Child and Family Services, said both boards had signed a letter of intent to merge. The goal is that together Centerstone and Uspiritus can leverage each other’s strengths to provide a longer, more efficient continuum of care, a spokeswoman said.

If they agree to a set of undisclosed terms, the nonprofits said they would unite the community’s most notable residential service provider for youth with one of the largest behavioral health organizations in the state to care for children transitioning from state custody into adulthood, according to the announcement.

“This potential merger is a unique opportunity to fundamentally reinvent and strengthen services for our neediest children,” stated Tony Zipple, Centerstone Kentucky’s president and chief executive, in the release.

The parties said they are in the due diligence process and reviewing legal and regulatory standards. They expect the process to conclude next spring.

Once the merger is complete, Uspiritus will change its name to Centerstone.

“There will not be a reduction in workforce,” said Amanda Newton, vice president of marketing and business development for Centerstone. “We each bring complementary services and expertise together that will now be able to benefit more children and families across the state.”

Centerstone, a behavioral health care provider, says it has been in operation for more than 60 years and has outlets in Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee, as well as Kentucky, which provide treatment, support and educational programs and services to more than 172,000 individuals who have mental health and addiction disorders and developmental disabilities.

Uspiritus says it is the region’s leading provider of therapeutic treatment and counseling to children and youth living with the effects of abuse, neglect or other mental health crisis situations.

With the addition of Uspiritus, Centerstone Kentucky would have 1,800 employees and serve 80 counties that provide services to nearly 36,000 people of all ages annually, the organizations said.

“Our vision is to create a continuum of care that gives foster children the treatment and services they need to be productive adults and reduce the high-cost of placing children in residential and institutional treatment,” said Uspiritus president and CEO Abbreial Drane said in the release. “Our merger, if finalized, will be a huge win not only for the children of our Commonwealth, but the state itself.”

If the merger is finalized, Zipple would retain his title and Drane would become the COO of Child and Family Services, Newton said. Centerstone Kentucky headquarters (aka Shared Services) is located at 10101 Linn Station Road. Centerstone of America is based in Nashville.

The merger of nonprofits has become a national trend, as organizations seek ways to grow quickly. According to a nonprofit finance study this summer from Abila, 80 percent of organizations surveyed said that growth in the next year and a half was important. The study showed more than 70 percent considered a partnership at least somewhat likely, and 14 percent were likely to seek a merger or acquisition.

Indeed, the Metropolitan Chicago Nonprofit Merger Research Project in 2016 studied mergers as a strategy for success and said one of its most important findings was that in 88 percent of mergers, both the acquired and the acquiring nonprofits felt that the organization was better off after the merger.

Mickey Meece
Mickey Meece is a native of Louisville, a Kentucky Colonel and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She worked at The New York Times for 13 years in various capacities on the business and features desk, including assistant to the editor, small business editor, weekend editor and staff editor. Mickey served as executive editor of USAA Magazine, the Money magazine for military families, and was an editor for the American Banker newspaper, where she reported on the credit card industry.