Two Tucson behavioral health nonprofits merge

2014-04-28T00:00:00Z 2014-04-28T11:55:22Z Two Tucson behavioral health nonprofits mergeBy Stephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Two longtime behavioral-health nonprofits in Southern Arizona have merged with a new name that’s effective today.

The Southern Arizona Mental Health Corp. (SAMHC) and Compass Behavioral Health Care Inc. are now a single nonprofit called the Pasadera Behavioral Health Network, which will be funded with a combined, estimated $18 million in government money per year.

Pasadera means stepping stone in Spanish. The mission of the Pasadera Behavioral Health Network is to provide accessible and innovative pathways to health care for people suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse, its officials say.

Chuck Burbank, the former chief executive officer of SAMHC, is the new CEO of Pasadera. In an interview Friday, he stressed that the SAMHC walk-in clinic in Tucson will remain the same, as will its east-side clinic, Elante.

What will be new is a combined approach to mental health and substance abuse. About 80 percent of the patients are presenting with both disorders at the same time, Burbank said. That’s why it made sense for the two organizations to merge, he said.

“A lot of times people are told to go to one program or another because of addiction or schizophrenia. Obviously people are not their illness — they are more than an illness and they need to be treated for all the complications that they come to us with,” Burbank said.

By eliminating the need to coordinate treatment through two providers, it will be much easier to help patients focus on their healing, he said.

As a combined agency, Pasadera will offer detoxification services, a residential program, outpatient care, housing for the homeless in recovery, multicultural services and prevention outreach. The agency also has crisis services, including a mobile acute-crisis team. The organization has also expanded its services beyond what Compass and SAMHC were doing by going into Green Valley and Three Points.

The merger move was welcomed by the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona (CPSA), the agency contracted by the state to coordinate and manage publicly funded behavioral health services for children and adults.

"Compass and SAMHC have been excellent service providers dedicated to delivering quality accessible care in our community, and CPSA looks forward to their continued dedication and success as Pasadera,” Neal Cash, the chief executive officer of CSPA, said in a written statement.

SAMHC was founded in 1962 as the first state-supported community mental-health agency in Arizona. It became an independent nonprofit agency in 1996.

Compass traces its beginnings to 1972, when the Local Alcoholism Reception Center (LARC) was founded as an agency of the city of South Tucson to provide an alternative to jail for people demonstrating public intoxication. LARC expanded into a professional treatment organization called Gateway in 1974. In 1997, Gateway merged with the Tucson Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to become Compass Behavioral Health Care.

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 573-4134.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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