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story.lead_photo.caption File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE - Nancy Hairston, director of development for Youth Bridge, right, and Karen Gray, vice president for marketing for Arvest, pack clothes to be donated to Youth Bridge Friday, May 16, 2014, at the bank on the Fayetteville square. The clothes were collected by Arvest employees as a part of the bank's Closet Exchange program which allowed associates the opportunity to give, exchange and receive business clothing. The extra clothing collected was donated to provide clients of Youth Bridge with professional clothing for use in job interviews and court appearances.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Youth Bridge, a behavioral health nonprofit group based in Fayetteville, and Burrell Behavioral Health of western Missouri have announced their intention to merge.

The companies expect to have a completed agreement by late April after financial due diligence measures are completed, they announced in a joint statement Thursday. Due diligence measures are financial disclosures that each party in a merger must give each other by law, including a list of assets and liabilities.

Youth Bridge's revenue for fiscal 2016, which ended June 30, 2017, was $9.5 million, and its net income was $338,228, according to its nonprofit tax form filed with the IRS. Burrell Behavioral Health is a also a nonprofit corporation and is privately held.

As reasons for the move, Directors of Youth Bridge and Burrell Behavioral Health noted mutual benefits of the merger for their companies and for the wider trends in behavioral health.

"Throughout our field, we've seen reduced funding and changes in managed care," Darryl Rhoda, president of Youth Bridge, said Thursday. "The situation is made worse by wage inflation, particularly in our region, and the explosion in the population needing our services."

C.J. Davis, president of Burrell, echoed Rhoda on Friday.

"You can have all the funding in the world, and you still wouldn't have enough behavioral health workers," he said.

Going for economies of scale is the best option, he said. For instance, Burrell has 120 providers, including some psychiatrists, who can apply for dual certification to practice in Arkansas if the merger goes through, he said.

Youth Bridge has wide experience in providing counseling and other services in schools, an area where Burrell is expanding rapidly, both presidents said. Youth Bridge is primarily, though not exclusively, focused on youths while Burrell has more experience in adult services, according to Rhoda. The service areas of the two companies also adjoin.

"We have some clients in Missouri who can be better served by going to Youth Bridge locations in Arkansas," Davis said. "It will be easier for them."

Youth Bridge gained many clients who used to go to Preferred Family Healthcare facilities. Preferred Family lost its license to practice in Arkansas after a bribery and Medicaid fraud scandal came to light last year.

The merger would make it easier to handle the increase in Youth Bridge's caseload, Rhoda said. Burrell is based in Springfield, Mo., and so is Preferred Family, but the two companies aren't affiliated, according to both Rhoda and Davis.

Youth Bridge and Burrell serve about 45,000 clients between them, the companies' statement said.

Burrell was founded in 1977 and operates in 17 Missouri counties. Youth Bridge was established in 1963 in Winslow and provides services to Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Marion, Madison, Newton and Washington counties.

Metro on 02/11/2019

Print Headline: Fayetteville-based health group plans to merge with Missouri firm

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