Equinox and Whitney Young considering merger

Albany-based nonprofit agencies offer similar populations different services
A volunteer helps prepare food for Equinox's Thanksgiving community dinner in 2015.
A volunteer helps prepare food for Equinox's Thanksgiving community dinner in 2015.

ALBANY — Two safety-net providers of health care and human services are considering a merger that would create a joint operation offering a greater range of services than either entity does on its own.

Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center and Equinox said this week that after preliminary discussions, their boards of directors have agreed to pursue the matter in greater depth.

They hope to complete their due diligence by the end of June and decide whether to formally seek a merger. Approvals from an assortment of state and federal agencies could take the rest of 2020 and working out the logistics of merging would stretch into 2021.

“We’ve each proven over time that we can do some good work together,” said David Shippee, CEO of Whitney Young, noting the two already have had some shared programming and appreciated the synergies that resulted.

Albany-based Whitney Young and Schenectady-based Hometown Health Centers in late 2017 embarked on a similar study of a partnership or merger. The two agreed to end the conversation after about nine months, Shippee said, after they could not find enough common ground to go forward.

Whitney Young and Hometown Health are both Federally Qualified Health Centers in inner cities, and a large percentage of their patients are Medicaid recipients. They serve as safety nets for a poorer population that may not otherwise receive medical care except during emergencies. 

As such, a merger between the two would have been horizontal — a combined entity offering the same services, but over a larger geographic area than either party covered on its own.

The potential merger between Equinox and Whitney Young would be vertical — a greater range of services than either party offered on its own, but in largely the same service area.

“There’s not an awful lot of overlap with the things we do,” Shippee said.

There is a direct synergy in the services the two organization currently offer: Equinox helps people get through bad life circumstances such as domestic abuse, drug addiction and homelessness, while Whitney Young treats people for the health problems that often result from bad life circumstances.

“We feel that this is really augmenting a lot of the care we provided,” Shippee said. “It rounds out things … gets to the ability to build a care network that addresses the social determinants of health.”

Previous collaborations between the two nonprofits have included HIV and hepatitis C testing administered by Whitney Young at certain Equinox sites for the past seven years. The two are now working to open a primary care/prompt care clinic and mental health clinic at a combined facility on Central Avenue in Albany.

Whitney Young, founded in 1974, serves more than 20,000 patients annually. Equinox, founded in 1947, serves more than 5,000 individuals per year. Its famous Thanksgiving dinner feeds nearly 11,000 people each year, and is one of the largest and oldest community meals in the nation.

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