Health

Seven Counties Services, Inc. is no more.

The mental health provider announced Monday that it officially merged with not-for-profit Tennessee-based Centerstone and will now be known as Centerstone of Kentucky.

For the coming months, patients won’t see any changes. But in the next two years, Centerstone plans to expand services and do more research.

Centerstone, which started in 1991, offers mental health services in Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana and now Kentucky. Starting Tuesday, Tony Zipple, president and CEO of Seven Counties, will become CEO of Centerstone of Kentucky.

Zipple said the merger means the local provider will have more resources for services like setting up “health homes” for people with serious mental health and medical conditions.

“We know that this group on average dies 25 years earlier than the general population,” Zipple said. “By bringing the kind of expertise that Centerstone has and doing an integrative project, [that] will bring much better health care overall to people with the most severe illnesses.”

Zipple said they would also target clients who have issues with police and the justice system. He said with better and more targeted services, those people might avoid the correctional system in Kentucky.

“We know that people with substance abuse disorders much more often find themselves with interactions with the courts, but most people if they’d had better services, they wouldn’t have ended up there,” Zipple said.

Seven Counties, headquartered in Louisville, serves 34,000 people annually in its 31 locations across Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties.

Mental health providers across the country are facing a change in how they are paid because of a federal law that adds a bonus or a penalty based on the value of care. Much of these payments will be based on data gathered on quality, which can be expensive to obtain.

Zipple said joining Centerstone gives them a leg up in that realm.

“In health care today, scale means a lot,” he said. “Whether you’re doing [analysis] for 100 people or 100,000 people, it’s the same cost. So by having a larger base of people, we can support more analytics and reporting.”

By joining Centerstone, Seven Counties also gains access to a database of 1.4 million people — and their health information. The data are being used to build predictive analytics, which target specific people based on demographics and health information to avoid future common occurrences like hospitalizations.

Centerstone reported $320 million in annual revenues last year and employs 4,500 employees nationwide.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.