For nearly 100 years, LaGrange-based organizations Pillars and Community Nurse Health Center have dedicated themselves to providing quality health care and social services for west suburban residents in need.
Now, after years of business referral and service collaboration, the organizations are actively exploring the possibility of merging to become a more unified, stronger healthcare network for locals.
Founded in 1928, Pillars is the largest nonprofit provider of mental health and social services in the west and southwest suburbs, serving upwards of 10,000 people yearly through 30 programs including mental health, addictions, child services and sexual violence.
Community Nurse, with area roots dating back to 1921, is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) providing medical, behavioral, psychiatric care and health education for more than 5,000 low-income west suburban residents.
According to the CEOs of each organization, Pillars and Community Nurse decided to look into the possibility of joining forces due to the many changes in the healthcare field at state and federal levels as well as a longstanding history of fellowship between the two organizations.
Ann Schreiner, CEO of Pillars, says talks about future partnership options have been an organic process and have popped up in conversation since their formal partnership was established in 2008.
“As time has evolved, Angela Curran [CEO of Community Nurse] and I from time to time have had conversations about how do we grow this, how do we make this better, how do we further integrate our services [and] strengthen a team of practitioners,” Schreiner said.
Pillars operates one of its 15 mental health programs out of Community Nurse’s facility, and Community Nurse provides medical services at Constance Morris House, Pillars’ domestic violence shelter.
The goal of a merger would be that someone seeking treatment for depression and heart problems, for example, could be treated for both conditions by the agencies with a clearer shared access to health records and care coordination.
Schreiner says a closer integration between the agencies would lead to a fuller array of services available to locals as well as an easier approach than the current partnership model.
“[A merger] cuts down barriers, because when an organization has a very strong partnership, you’re not having to go to one door and go to another door and tell your story three or four times,” Schreiner said. “It’s a very much more compassionate kind of care.”
Curran agrees with Schreiner that exploration of a services merger would only benefit the organizations and those they care for.
“This will actually enhance the idea that mental and physical health services should be integrated,” Curran said. “There’s a lot of studies and research that show when people can access services in an integrated fashion, that more people access the services and engage with the services. It reduces a stigma a little bit and you’re better able to manage and enhance a patient’s outcome.”
As of now, leaders from Pillars and Community Nurse are still negotiating the details of a possible merger. A final decision will be made in mid-July, when a recommendation for either an enhanced partnership or total merger will be presented before both boards of directors for their consideration.
For more information about history and services of the organizations, visit pillarscommunity.org and communitynurse.org.