Executives share a handshake
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A new regional merger of four Gulf state nursing home associations promises to add scale and efficiency to existing resources and enable better senior care, LeadingAge Florida announced Wednesday. The prominent nonprofit association, now rebranded as LeadingAge Southeast, will represent more than 600 member skilled nursing facilities with 80,000 residents across the region. 

The new merger with the existing LeadingAge Gulf States chapter — composed of care providers in Louisiana and Mississippi — closely follows a May 2023 merger with LeadingAge Alabama. All four states will now combine their resources from a headquarters in Tallahassee, FL.

The decision was made in the context of a period of leadership transition for the Gulf State branch, confirmed Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of LeadingAge SE.

“LeadingAge Gulf States had begun a succession planning process as a result of the approaching retirement of their state executive,” Bahmer told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Wednesday, referring to former LeadingAge Gulf States President Karen Contrenchis. “As part of that process… Gulf States asked us to consider a merger as one possibility for their succession plan.”

Bahmer noted that this is not the first merger between LeadingAge state branches. The state branches of Maine and New Hampshire and those of New Jersey and Delaware also operate as single entities. The new merger decision also mirrors trends in the long-term care sector as a whole. 

“In some ways, this is a reflection of what our senior living members are doing — affiliating to continue serving older adults through greater scale and resources,” he said. “In the right circumstances, it can certainly make sense to combine strengths and to drive efficiencies that help ensure that all of our organizations can support a larger number of members and the older adults they serve.”

Adding scale, maintaining focus

The new combined organization is aimed at increasing efficiency through scale, leaning on the greater resources of the Florida branch, Garry Hennis, chair of the LeadingAge SE board of trustees confirmed Wednesday.

“The merger of our two associations represents an important opportunity … to extend our service to providers and the older adults they serve,” said Hennis. “Senior living providers are pursuing affiliations to help providers continue to serve older adults through greater scale and resources, and associations are pursuing similar strategies for the same reasons.”

Bahmer was quick to agree that the merger will benefit providers across the gulf region. Personnel and resources decisions are being tailored to maximize scale without compromising the association’s ability to focus on state-specific issues.

A team of 15 has been set up at LeadingAge SE to assess staff and resource needs across all four states. While he did not provide specific staff numbers Wednesday, Bahmer stated that its goal is to “assess member needs and grow our team to ensure we can provide the highest level of service to our members.” 

“We are fortunate to be positioned to help members in states where all of these resources may not be available,” Bahmer told McKnight’s. “Our team is focused on thinking regionally while delivering service locally…. We’re taking steps to ensure that members in our new states are represented from a governance perspective as well, by adding a member from Louisiana or Mississippi to our LeadingAge Southeast Board of Trustees.”