The organizations are part of “the collaboratory,” Federation’s process to bring social service agencies together.
Over the course of almost a year, Jewish Family Service of Metro Detroit (JFS), JVS Human Services and Kadima Mental Health Services have been in conversation about the possibility of a merger or collaboration.
The three organizations were brought together by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit (JFMD) to talk about the possibility of collaboration. Both JVS and JFS are partner organizations of JFMD.
JFMD President Beverly Liss said in a statement to the Jewish News that the talks are part of “the Collaboratory,” which is “a facilitated process in which Jewish Federation convened a number of social service agencies to discuss how they could improve social delivery.”
Leaders at JVS, JFS and Kadima said they felt that it was best to continue to convene after the initial meeting to pursue the possibility of a merger.
To help further their discussions, the three organizations have begun searching for a consultant, Leah Rosenbaum, JVS President and Chief Executive Officer, told the Jewish News. They have conducted interviews and hope to make a decision on a hire within the next week or two.
The possibility of a merger was first reported Feb. 25 by Crain’s Detroit Business.
“We realized that we do have overlap in the people we serve and we’re all reliant on government funding,” Rosenbaum said. “We decided to lean in a little further.”
The goal, Rosenbaum said, is for all three groups to “maximize our money to go to mission.” She added, “Our conversations are surrounding how we can best serve the people that we serve in the most cost-effective way.”
JVS, headquartered in Southfield with four offices across Metro Detroit, was founded in 1941 and provides counseling, training and social services to area families with a focus on women, people with disabilities and seniors. Rosenbaum has been involved with JVS for 40 years and will retire at the end of the week; Chief Operating Officer Paul Blatt will take her place as the new CEO.
Eric Adelman, executive director at Kadima in Southfield, said the organizations are “very early on in our conversations,” and that no decision has been made about what shape the proposed collaboration would take.
“We could share our backend systems such as payroll or IT, jointly run some programs or we could even merge the three agencies into one,” Adelman said. “We are looking at this with very open eyes and trying to find the best solution for the people served.”
Kadima was established in 1984 by Rabbi Shlomo Gruskin and provides mental health services in the Metro Detroit community. Although Kadima is not a formal partner of JFMD, Adelman said the two consider themselves “brother and sister organizations.”
JFS, led by CEO Perry Ohren, has been a community resource for the last 90 years. The organization has two locations in West Bloomfield and Oak Park, and serves groups including seniors, people struggling with mental health and Russian immigrants.
“We have sent out emails to our staff and have repeated that we have not yet decided to merge at all. We are merely in the conversational phase,” Ohren said. “There has been nothing out of the ordinary with concerns about these conversations. Our boards have had knowledge of this since last year, when they voted to approve our organizations to engage in these types of conversations.”
Adelman believes that if a merger or collaboration does occur, it will bring “synergy” to the entire Jewish social services community.
There are overlaps in the groups’ missions. Both Kadima and JFS provide outpatient psychiatric services, as well as outpatient individual and group therapy. Both JVS and JFS provide aid to seniors and people with disabilities.
While Kadima has experienced financial speedbumps in the past, Adelman said that its 2019 audit, once complete, will show that it is now “in the black.” Financial concerns are a priority for all three organizations, yet they are not a driving force in these conversations, Adelman added.
“We want to ensure financial sustainability for the future of our organizations to make sure that we can serve our community for the long-term,” Adelman said.
While it appears too soon to speak to what the outcome of these conversations will be, the organizations have already reached out to partners and donors.
“All that we are embarking upon is to answer the question of how our services can be combined, and should they even be combined, to serve this community better,” Ohren said. “The only reason, in my perspective, to merge or collaborate is if we can actually serve the community better.”
Correction: Leah Rosenbaum has been involved with JVS for 40 years.