WATERVILLE — Two area nonprofit mental health agencies are merging to save money as well as share and expand services.

Waterville-based Kennebec Behavioral Health will buy Youth & Family Services Inc. in Skowhegan and Augusta today, according to George Myers, director of communications and community outreach at Kennebec Behavioral Health.

Starting Wednesday, the combined agencies will operate as Kennebec Behavioral Health.

Thomas McAdam, chief executive officer of Kennebec Behavior Health, said patient care will continue uninterrupted and that all 36 Youth & Family Services employees have been invited to join the 316 employees of Kennebec Behavioral Health.

McAdam said Kennebec Behavioral Health will buy all the assets of Youth & Family Services and be open for business Thursday morning. He declined to specify the amount of the purchase.

Efficiencies, McAdam said, will be gained by eliminating any duplication of services and by combining agency offices in Skowhegan and Augusta.

Kennebec Behavioral Health will move into Youth & Family Services headquarters at 5 Commerce Drive from its leased space on High Street.

In Augusta, Kennebec Behavioral Health will move into the Youth & Family Services building at 72 Winthrop St. from its Winthrop Street offices.

Kennebec Behavior Health treats adults and families with mental illness, trauma and emotional or behavioral problems.

Last year the agency served 12,253 clients at its two clinics in Waterville, and one each in Skowhegan, Augusta and Winthrop, Myers said. It was founded in 1960.

Youth & Family Services specializes in mental health, substance abuse and youth shelter services for central Maine families and others.

Last year Youth & Family Services served 1,000 clients, Myers said. It was founded in 1974.

McAdam said that for years employees at the two agencies have collaborated and that since mental health providers have received “budget haircuts the last five years that have made them half-bald,” it made economic sense to join forces.

Lora Wilford-McManus, director of Youth & Family Services, said the merger is a natural fit.

The move will “provide quality services to clients and their families and … save taxpayer dollars at the same time,” she said.

Wilford-McManus will become a member of the clinical staff at Kennebec Behavioral Health.

McAdam echoed that the merger would benefit clients and taxpayers.

He said services in Somerset County should be enhanced. “We’ve long recognized the need to provide more services going up the river,” he said.

Kennebec Behavioral Health offers 30 programs, including psychiatric services. There are 16 psychiatrists on staff, four of whom are child psychiatrists.

Youth & Family Services has provided nine programs, including two not offered by Kennebec Behavioral Health: community case management for adults with mental retardation and autism as well as the Halcyon House, a shelter for homeless youth 10-17 years old.

McAdam said lawmakers in Augusta routinely ask him how he knows the provided services work.

He said his organization regularly evaluates and adjusts patients’ treatment. “Our goal is to get people back functioning to their maximum capacity,” he said.

Each year, McAdam said, 20 percent of Americans have some sort of mental health problem.

While it can be difficult to quantify what happens when mental health services are gutted, he said, when the unseen support networks erode, homelessness, emergency room visits and crime rates increase.

Myers said the most common request from adults seeking help is for assistance with depression.

Adults, though, are not the only ones in need.

McAdam said there is a waiting list of children to be treated by a staff psychiatrist; 1,400 youths received treatment in 2011, he said.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]

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