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Article published February 4, 2013
Health care groups join forces
VNA aligns with Lutheran SeniorLife
David Means Eagle Staff Writer
Two of Butler County’s longtime nonprofit health care providers quietly joined forces at the start of the year. Lutheran SeniorLife and the VNA in early December signed an affiliation agreement that became effective Jan. 1. Under the agreement, the VNA essentially becomes the home health care and hospice divisions of Lutheran SeniorLife, according to the leaders of each organization. Liz Powell, the VNA’s executive director and former president and CEO, said the organization, its board of directors and its 300 or so employees are excited about the deal. She said the VNA had been searching for partnerships for the past four years, but during 2012, those efforts heated up through talks with Lutheran SeniorLife. She said both organizations saw an affiliation as a way to grow and create more business. The agreement also is an opportunity for both to further integrate care in the community and remain competitive in the health care industry, she said. Butler Township-based VNA provides many levels of home- and community-based care to all of Butler and Armstrong counties and parts of Mercer, Beaver, Lawrence, Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. It also has an inpatient hospice facility in Butler Township. Adams Township-based Lutheran SeniorLife provides residential living, personal care, long-term care and skilled nursing care in six facilities in Western Pennsylvania. In addition, it has five LIFE centers in Butler, Beaver, Lawrence and Allegheny counties. The LIFE program, which stands for Living Independence for the Elderly, provides care and support services to help seniors continue to live in their homes. Lutheran SeniorLife employs about 1,000. “It was a really happy discovery that we could fit together,” Powell said. “We feel it’s the right thing for us,” she said. Powell said few, if any, changes are planned because the organizations’ services complement each other so well. Despite her title change, Powell said her role remains the same in leading the VNA. Also, she said all employees still are VNA employees, and the organization’s board of directors will remain intact. She said the current health care climate, including the changes to how providers are being reimbursed by insurers, are driving more organizations together to remain competitive. Powell said she has been “delighted” with Lutheran SeniorLife’s warm welcome and organizational quality and that she looked forward to serving the community together. David Fenoglietto, president and CEO of Lutheran SeniorLife, also is enthusiastic about the partnership, adding this is not the first time the organizations have worked together. In 2005, VNA partnered with Lutheran SeniorLife to establish Be Home Partners, which is Lutheran SeniorLife’s home health service. For now, Be Home Partners will continue to offer home care, but the VNA will significantly bolster the organization’s home health services and geographical reach. Fenoglietto said the agreement came as a result of both organizations wanting to eliminate their limitations and better serve the community. Now, all services, from independent living to hospice care, will form a “seamless and comprehensive” continuum of care, he said.