Easterseals Michigan and Macomb Oakland Regional Center to merge

Talks between the two agencies’ boards began three years ago, but the agency’s chief executives — who have known each other for more than 20 years — were talking about it even earlier, Wirth said.

“We were at a conference talking,” he said. “The world of healthcare continues to evolve and change. We are part of (that). We knew we wanted to be stronger.”

“There seemed to be a near-normal fit” between the two, said Pott, 68, who joked that he was graduating from high school when Wirth was born.

The feeling was mutual for Easter, said Wirth, 50.

The CEOs said that while both agencies provide autism and placement services to their clients, there is little overlap.

Easter has evolved into a behavioral health provider, primarily providing mental health and substance abuse services to 16,000 people last year.

MORC, which has been in the area for nearly 50 years, provides long-term care to people with intellectual and development disabilities and the elderly, and works to keep them at home.

The merger comes on the heels of generating $17 million in revenue, year on year, into MORC earnings. Butt said the decline came as Macomb County Community Mental Health restored management of the network of mental health providers for people with developmental disabilities that MORC had overseen for years. Butt said the loss of the management contract had a slight impact on MORC, citing the retirement of one employee and two layoffs as a result. But he said most of the contract was money passed on to other service providers.

Butt said similar moves have occurred with community mental health agencies in Oakland and Wayne counties as well.

But he said the merger is not about cost-cutting and financial savings for agencies now. “It’s about how we can improve our performance for the people we serve and (for) the employees.”

MORC is running on a budget of $80 million for the 2022 fiscal year that began October 1, down from $97 million in 2021 and $92.5 million the year before. Butt said he had $1.1 million in revenue over expenses, according to its unaudited results for fiscal year 2021, noting that he finished the year with about $20 million in net assets and fund balances.

“We’re both stronger financially than ever,” Wirth said.

“This is the time to consolidate,” Bot added.

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