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Cazenovia Recovery Services merges with Fellowship House

Cazenovia Recovery Services, a Buffalo provider of help to those recovering from drug or alcohol abuse, announced Tuesday it is merging with financially troubled Fellowship House, which has offered similar services in Niagara County since 1980.

Cazenovia is taking over Fellowship House’s state licenses for four residential facilities in Niagara County – two in Niagara Falls and one each in Lockport and Somerset – effective Jan. 1.

“Fellowship House has been struggling,” said Suzanne L. Bissonette, Cazenovia Recovery’s executive director and the acting executive director of Fellowship House. The mandated Medicaid service redesign under the Affordable Care Act hit at the same time the Niagara County agency’s client load was decreasing.

“They were just not going to survive financially,” Bissonette said. “They ended last year with a deficit.”

She added, “Our intention is to see that these much-needed services remain and are offered to Niagara County residents for years to come. Both of our agencies share a longtime commitment to those in recovery from substance abuse disorders. We expect the transition to be efficient and seamless.”

Cazenovia Recovery has 130 employees and 356 beds. All of its facilities – six community residences, supportive-living peer apartments and independent housing – are located in Buffalo, except for the Turning Point House intensive residential rehabilitation facility in Eden and the Liberty Hall community residence in Batavia.

Fellowship House was founded by Husnara Sundram and began with nine clients in Niagara Falls in 1980. Since then, the organization has served about 4,000 people in its Niagara County facilities. However, it dealt with only 159 clients in 2014, Bissonette said.

Fellowship House’s four facilities total 85 beds, and it has 30 to 40 employees, Bissonette said. She has been working in the past four weeks to stabilize Fellowship House and reorganize its staff in preparation for the merger. “At this time, everybody will have a job,” Bissonette said.

Asked if all four Fellowship House facilities will remain open, she said, “Right now, that is our intention, but we’re taking a close look at their financials.”

Cazenovia Recovery Services started in 1981 and provides comprehensive services to men and women in recovery, many of whom have co-occurring mental health disorders, and are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Last year, it assisted 887 people, including 65 military veterans.

“Cazenovia is growing fast,” Bissonette said. Other agencies have been asking it to take over more residential facilities, she said.