Two large health care systems, Axis Health System and The Center for Mental Health, are merging to provide health care to 11 counties on Colorado’s Western Slope.
The merger will take place within the next nine months and represents the first merger of two community mental health centers in Colorado, according to a joint news release. The goal is to enhance patient care, and services will continue uninterrupted during the transition.
“The decision is a result of our shared view that the best health care delivery will require increased scale, enhanced administrative capacity and better provider coverage capacity,” said Shelly Burke, Axis Health System CEO, in the release Sept. 1. “The new organization will be an even better resource for our communities and allow us to innovate and evolve as we continue to respond to emerging health care needs.”
The Center provides community mental health services in 12 locations across Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, San Miguel, Ouray and Hinsdale counties.
Axis provides medical, dental, crisis and behavioral health care at nine locations in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties.
Pending federal/state approvals expected this winter, the two centers will become one organization, according to the news release.
The new organization will have 460 employees and provide services to about 19,000 people. It will keep the Axis Health System name, and the two boards will eventually merge. Shelly Spalding, CEO of The Center for Mental Health, will be the organization’s president, and Burke will be its CEO.
The Center and Axis have partnered on various service contracts and care delivery projects for more than 30 years, resulting in a shared history to build on for the future, according to the news release.
“Mergers like this are designed to lead to greater impact, better organizational stability and enhanced continuums of care,” the release said.
With behavioral health needs on the rise partly because of the pandemic, the merged organization can expand program reach, create economies of scale and enhance patient care, the release said.
The organizations said the merger also will reduce the competition for limited resources in small communities and competition for state and federal funding, while also creating increased capacity to offer a wider variety of services to patients with better coverage.
“As community health care providers, we must grow in sustainable ways to ensure we are preserving and advancing high-quality care in our communities in an increasingly complicated health care industry,” Spalding said in the release. “We believe that bringing our two organizations together will provide long-term benefits to the patients and our communities.”