Whitney Young Health, Equinox To Explore Merger | WAMC

Whitney Young Health, Equinox To Explore Merger

Feb 25, 2020

Two longtime Albany-based human service agencies are working toward a possible merger.

One is a federally-qualified health center, the other, a community-based organization.

The boards of directors of Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center and Equinox, Inc. agree that talks about joining forces should move forward.

According to the agencies’ respective websites, Whitney Young was established in 1971 to provide access to consistent quality healthcare without regard to income. Equinox roots go back to ClearView Center, originally the Albany Child Guidance Center, founded in 1947 by a group of parents seeking to keep their children with mental illness nearby.

Equinox CEO Virginia Golden says Whitney Young and Equinox already have a history of partnering on projects.   "And this seemed a natural evolution to our ongoing collaborative work to improve services to the most vulnerable in our community."

"We think exploring this merger makes sense not just for our two organizations but, more importantly, for the people of Albany and the Greater Capital Region we both serve. If we're able to find ways to provide care and compassion for those people in a more effective and efficient manner, we should explore it," said Shippee and Golden in a joint statement.

Golden sees a merger as a logical way to ensure both organizations’ services will remain available in decades to come.   "Well I think clearly Dave Shippee and I in terms of looking at the future of health care and value-based payments and social determinants of health and the challenges both at the state and federal level in terms of budgets, that there will be increasing financial pressures on both organizations, and we think by executing this merger that we'll be able to enhance services and achieve efficiencies from a financial perspective. And so those are two of the major goals of this potential merger."

Both organizations are engaging in in-depth reviews of the potential impacts of such a merger. Should the plan move forward to completion, the new organization would combine board members and professional staff.

The aforementioned David Shippee is CEO of Whitney Young.    "We like to think of this opportunity as really more of a vertical integration as opposed to a horizontal. So, you know, there's a number of things that Equinox does that we don't do. So there's not a ton of duplication in certain areas. And I think there's a lot of supportive things that they can offer to a number of the folks that we serve at Whitney Young in our clinical capacity."

Shippee says once the two agencies navigate regulations, resolve issues of governance and decide what the new entity would be called, the merger could be completed by this time next year, give or take a month.  "Each party has to do some due diligence in terms of assessing, you know, the respective entity, the other entity has, you know, a level of assets and liabilities that everybody can feel comfortable with. So those are normal again, and any of these types of relationships. Certainly, there are a number of regulatory blessings that have to happen both at the state level and then with Whitney Young particularly at the federal level, because we are what's known as a federally qualified health center, and a lot of our programs, and particularly a lot of our clinical services that we offer for our patients are, you know, are based off of that status and the ability to realize a federal grant every year to help care for those folks that are otherwise still totally uninsured or underinsured."