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Providence St. Joseph Health System Merger Creates $100 Million Mental Health Initiative

The newly merged Providence St. Joseph Health system today will announce a $100 million initiative to pay for mental health counseling and research in California and six other states.

The nonprofit system, a combination of Washington state-based Providence Health & Services and Irvine-based St. Joseph Health, will operate hospitals, clinics and medical centers across seven states, including California. The merger was approved by California’s Attorney General last month and the organization began joint operation July 1.

When considering whether to approve a merger in California, the state Attorney General typically sets conditions to ensure “continuity of care” for patients in the community.

“When we met with the Attorney General’s office, they asked us what would be different if [the two organizations] came together, and the answer was this initiative around mental health,” said Providence St. Joseph Health’s CEO Rod Hochman.

The Attorney General’s office ultimately made the initiative a requirement, he said.

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The plan is to create an Institute for Mental Health and Wellness, which will earmark a one-time initial amount of $30 million for California alone. The money is to be used for mental health and addiction counseling and research and treatment for child mental health as well as depression, psychotic disorders and other conditions, according to the California Attorney General’s office.

The other states that will participate in the mental health initiative — Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington — will receive the remaining $70 million.

The institute also will establish an advisory panel and collaborate with national and local groups with expertise in this issue to brainstorm ways to close the gaps in the country’s mental health system.

Among those groups is the Washington, D.C.-based National Council for Behavioral Health, whose top official praised the new institute.

“I am confident we will make meaningful strides, bringing new hope to the many individuals and families who are affected by mental health challenges,” said Linda Rosenberg, the council’s president and CEO.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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