“Our founding principle and our rallying cry right from the beginning is that ‘We are better together,’” said Stephanie Madison, the president and CEO of MHAR. “We believe that the merger will make us stronger as a combined entity, which will give us a deeper and wider array of services, and a greater ability to be flexible and nimble to meet the changing needs of our communities. We’ll also have a stronger infrastructure and enhanced financial strength, which really positions us to be the best that we can be on behalf of the people that we have the privilege of supporting in our communities.”
With an operating budget of $50 million and 500 staff members, the new partnership will make them the second-largest mental health association in the country.
It will also allow them to have a louder voice on both the state and national level in driving policy and practice.
All under one roof, clients will have easier access to their services, such as mental health formal treatment programming, care management services and residential services.
A social program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in MHAR is set to undergo change.
Madison said that those in the program will be able to receive other services that are similar, but are more enhanced.
The goal is for clients to work with the same people under a different program umbrella, but the details are not yet finalized in ensuring the “positive and smooth transition.”
Though it was first officially announced last year in August, the plan to merge began about five years ago between Madison and Charlotte Ostman, the previous CEO of MHAW, before her passing this past May.
“Charlotte Ostman was a beloved colleague and an exceptional leader of MHAW,” Madison said.
Stacey Roberts, who began her career with MHAW 23 years ago, stepped in.
“Her leadership, her passion, her commitment, her skill really enabled her to step into the CEO position during a really difficult time and really provide the comfort, the skill, the continuity and the expertise that our organizations needed throughout this tough time as we orchestrate the merger,” Madison said.
Before being appointed as CEO, she served as Chief Operating Officer of the agency for six years and along with other Board of Directors, was deeply involved in the exploratory and planning processes related to the merger, serving as the internal lead on the initiative.
“During my tenure at the organization, I have witnessed, collaborated on, and led exciting initiatives that resulted in transformation and growth,” Roberts said in an email. “Now as CEO, I am proud to continue executing our vision, and I am grateful for the depth of experience, talent and passion demonstrated by staff at both MHAW and MHAR,” she said.
The sister organizations collaborated and offered services side by side in the Rockland community for well over a decade.
“We have long enjoyed a relationship with MHAR – one that is rich with mutual respect and collaboration. By joining forces and serving our communities as one entity, we will be poised to better address gaps in care, accessibility and whole person health,” Roberts said. “In addition to providing more than 15,000 people across the region with a wide array of integrated services, we look forward to expanding our educational opportunities and advocacy efforts. Leadership staff at both agencies have spent more than a year working closely alongside one another as we prepare for our future, and I look forward to crossing the finish line and truly working together as one agency deeply committed to promoting mental health, resilience and recovery.”
To help toast to this new beginning, they will be hosting the Power of Connection Gala, the first joint gala, on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Tappan Hill Mansion in Tarrytown.
“It’s really giving us a great opportunity to honor that connection that our organizations are forming and to also honor three specific people, who we think have really done outstanding work in our communities and really deserve to be in the spotlight,” Madison said.
The three honorees include Meryl A. Allison, MHAW Board Member and former Board President; Dr. Leslie Citrome, MHAR volunteer consultant and former Board Member and Glenn Liebman, CEO of Mental Health Association in New York State.
This will be the grand return of the signature fundraising event since the pandemic.
“Each year, we celebrate the Power of Connection as our event’s theme, and this year’s ‘connection’ is even more meaningful as we toast to our future with MHAR,” Roberts said.