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Two-county merger set for Planned Parenthood

The Planned Parenthood organizations in Erie and Niagara counties have decided to merge, officials said Tuesday.

The boards of Planned Parenthood of Buffalo & Erie County and Planned Parenthood of Niagara County on Monday authorized a merger that will create one organization with a budget of $6 million, six health centers and 80 full-time employees.

One of the main reasons for the consolidation is the need for greater efficiency at a time of tighter finances for nonprofit groups, officials said.

"We're both healthy and growing," said Margaret M. Toohey, chairwoman of the Niagara County group. "But the funding climate for nonprofits has become very difficult. It seemed silly for both organizations to compete with each other for grants."

"This isn't so much about saving money; it's more about enabling us to do a better job," said Elizabeth G. Clark, chairwoman of the Buffalo group.

Combined, the two organizations annually provide family planning services to 12,000 women and 1,000 men, as well as other services, including educational programs, testing for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases and a joint mobile outreach unit.

The Niagara County organization also provides pediatric care to 3,400 children each year and surgical and medical abortions with the pill RU-486, also known as mifepristone.

Officials said that no layoffs are planned and that they do not yet have firm plans for how, if at all, services might change as a result of the merger. The merger will place the combined organization in a better position to expand if the need arises, Clark and Toohey said.

About 49 percent of the agencies' budgets come from patient care, with 40 percent from public sources and 11 percent from private fund raising.

The Buffalo group was founded in 1933, and Niagara County's was organized in 1937. The agencies will choose a new name after becoming one legal entity, a process that is expected to take about seven months and requires approval by the state, from both the Health Department and the attorney general's office.

Both of the two organizations' chief executive officers -- Laura Meyers in Erie County and Catherine Herrick in Niagara County -- will lead the new entity, officials said.

e-mail: hdavis@buffnews.com

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