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Merger of Rosecrance and Community Elements is ‘starting line’ on road to expanded services

Community input first step toward new behavioral health services.

Community Elements will become part of Rosecrance, one of Illinois’ leading behavioral health providers, in a merger that becomes effective Friday, July 1, 2016.

Leaders of both organizations gave details of the merger at a morning press conference Wednesday, June 29.

The merger is expected to lead to an expansion of substance abuse treatment services and create an integrated behavioral health system of care in Central Illinois. Rosecrance President/CEO Philip W. Eaton said he was encouraged by positive feedback from the community after the two organizations announced in December that they were exploring a merger. He asked community stakeholders to be part of the process to create “a solid – and sustainable – plan for the future.”

“Today is the starting line, not the destination,” Eaton said at the press conference. “The real work to establish a comprehensive, integrated system of behavioral health care in this community begins now, and we will need your help.

“Every person in this room is a contributing architect to the eventual structure of a system of care that will offer expanded services to meet existing and emerging needs.”

The merger has the support of state officials. Diana Knaebe, director of the Division of Mental Health for the Illinois Department of Human Services, attended the press conference. She said the state supports the move toward integrated behavioral health care as it is a more efficient use of state resources and delivers better care to clients.

“Many of us who serve individuals with mental illnesses have been working toward one big goal: to design the nation’s leading behavioral health strategy. Today, Illinois is one step closer to reaching that goal. For years, Community Elements has been helping residents in central Illinois with excellent counseling and treatment, as well as prevention services. This merger will allow them to expand that list of services, helping even more individuals and families recover from mental illness,” Knaebe said. “Better yet, it will allow them to expand much-needed substance abuse services in the Champaign-Urbana area. Rosecrance has a long history of providing effective substance abuse programs, and Community Elements can now benefit from that expertise.”

Community Elements CEO Sheila Ferguson will become executive director of Rosecrance operations in Central Illinois. Ferguson said she has had many conversations over the past six months with community stakeholders about the kinds of services they want Rosecrance to offer locally. Community Elements has traditionally focused on mental health services, with a lesser emphasis on substance abuse treatment.

“Now, instead of talking in terms of what ‘might’ happen, we can begin speaking in terms of what ‘can’ happen under the right circumstances,” Ferguson said. “It will no longer be an academic exercise to discuss how we might respond to persistent problems that exist in our community.”

Ferguson said she would call on other service providers and community leaders for input to craft a solid, sustainable plan for expanded services.

In his remarks, Eaton pointed to the long histories of each organization and the compatibility of mission and services. Rosecrance is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2016, and Community Elements marked 60 years of service this year.

“We have deep expertise in our core competencies of providing treatment for mental health disorders and addiction,” Eaton said. “Each of us has survived and thrived through our ability to identify and respond to emerging needs in our communities with sustainable programs, even during economically challenging times.”

Speakers acknowledged the financial challenges facing organizations that depend to any significant degree on state funding. Repeating a theme from the December event, Eaton and Ferguson stressed that strong, efficient, multi-service organizations are more equipped to survive tough financial times than small, narrowly focused agencies.

“Here and elsewhere over the past year, we’ve seen too many of these latter organizations struggle,” Eaton said. “We’ve seen too many clients desperate for services left by the wayside when the wheels came off these organizations.”

A Community Advisory Board will be appointed to give input to Ferguson on community needs. In addition, Dr. Barry Ackerson and Jay Ramshaw of the Community Elements Board of Directors will serve on the Rosecrance Health Network Board of Directors.

Staff will celebrate the merger at a picnic Wednesday afternoon at Hessel Park in Champaign.

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