Goodwin Community Health of Somersworth and Families First Health & Support Center of Portsmouth today announced their intent to merge. The boards of directors of both organizations have unanimously agreed to become one organization by the end of 2017.

The strategic merger will create a single, regional organization that improves patient care and health outcomes through clinical integration, increases access to care and services, and positions the new organization to meet the demands of a rapidly changing health care system. It also brings operational efficiencies, economies of scale, and advantages in recruiting and retaining clinical staff.

Both Families First and Goodwin will continue doing business under their current names and at current locations.

Once the merger is complete, Goodwin CEO Janet Laatsch will lead the merged organization as CEO. Laatsch, who has expertise in finance and nursing, has served as CEO since 2005. Helen Taft, Families First Executive Director since 1989, will retire once the transition is complete.

During a deliberate three-year planning process, the organizations identified serious health care challenges in the region. These include high levels of chronic disease, lack of access to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, provider shortages and an aging population — all in an increasingly complex and uncertain health-care landscape. The merger will boost the health centers’ ability to meet these challenges while expanding access to integrated primary, behavioral, prenatal and dental care; substance misuse services; public health and wellness services; and parent and family programs

“We are excited about what this merger will offer our patients,” says Laatsch. “This is a tremendous evolution for both organizations and will ultimately benefit patients by broadening our position in community health care and sharing best practices. Throughout the process of becoming a single organization, our focus will be on continued patient-centered care to every single Families First and Goodwin Community Health patient.”

Helen Taft says, “My goals before retiring have been to position Families First for the future in an ever- evolving health care environment and to maintain our mission and ability to respond to community needs. I am confident that we will achieve these goals through this reorganization into a larger entity.”

Goodwin and Families First share similar heritages and values and nearly identical missions. Both non-profit Community Health Centers began as prenatal clinics and later expanded to offer integrated primary care, dental and behavioral health services. They also share a 30-year history of collaborating on best practices, staffing solutions, and population health programs, like mobile health care, to meet the needs of their adjoining service areas in southeastern New Hampshire and southern Maine.

Public forums to share more detailed information and address questions will be held at Goodwin Community Health, at 311 Route 108 in Somersworth, on June 21 at 5:30 p.m, and at Families First, at 100 Campus Drive in Portsmouth, on June 22 at 5 p.m. All are welcome.

The merged organization will include Families First facilities in Portsmouth and Seabrook, Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth, and mobile health clinics in five Seacoast towns. For more information on the organizations and merger plans, visit GoodwinCH.org or FamiliesFirstSeacoast.org.

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