Mental health-agency merger spawns new name: SalusCare

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Two of Southwest Florida’s top nonprofit mental health providers officially announced Monday morning that they would join forces and share quarters in a partnership that should streamline treatment for as many as 17,000 patients.

Southwest Florida Addiction Services and Lee Mental Health have combined to become SalusCare Inc., now based at the former corporate office of SWFAS on Evans Avenue in Fort Myers.

The result should improve efficiency of both nonprofits by cutting down on duplicate administrative services and also on applications and paperwork for patients, while making it easier to coordinate the programs they participate in, both agencies have said.

Few if any cost savings are expected, and that hasn’t been the point of the merger, said former SWFAS board Chairman Marshall Bower. “Cost efficiencies were not the driver here, and they are expected to be minimal,” said Bower, who will head the board of the new agency. “One seamless system of services and increased integration of care through primary physicians and other services” were the goals, he said.

SWFAS CEO Kevin B. Lewis heads the new nonprofit, with Lee Mental Health’s CEO David Winters assuming the chief administrative officer’s post.

SWFAS has operated on about half the $20 million budget of Lee Mental Health.

Talks between the agencies’ boards began in October 2011, Lewis said, although Winters first broached the subject with him before that.

The name, SalusCare, is derived from the Latin “salus,” meaning health, prosperity and safety. It is pronounced SAIL-us.

SalusCare’s top administrators make use of some natural talents, said Lewis. “David’s skills working with insurance and managed care will give us a much stronger administrative team,” he said. “And I’m an outside guy. I think I have community relationships that will help us.” Together, they’ll work toward a more integrated system of care that works with primary care doctors and hospitals to best serve the particular needs of people with substance abuse and mental health problems.

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