April 26, 2019
The Bridge of Central Mass. and Alternatives Unlimited Merge

July 27, 2018 — The Bridge of Central Massachusetts, a Worcester nonprofit that provides services for people with mental health challenges, developmental and intellectual disabilities, and other challenges, and Alternatives Unlimited, based in Whitinsville, a provider of services for adults with developmental or psychiatric disabilities, this week announced they have merged.

The Bridge of Central Massachusetts and Alternatives Unlimited described the merger as an affiliation, which allowed each to retain their 501(c)(3) status.

Ken Bates, president and CEO of The Bridge, will lead the combined organization, while Dennis Rice, executive director of Alternatives, will stay on as a senior advisor.

A new board of directors made up of former directors from both organizations met for the first time this week.

Together, the organizations have a combined workforce of 1300 staff and a current budget of $78 million, with Alternatives Unlimited being the larger entity with 700 employees and a budget of $45 million.

Revenues are projected to grow to $82 million during the current fiscal year, which began July 1 when the merger took effect, due to projected new business.

A Bridge spokesperson said "both organizations have many open opportunities and jobs have not been lost as a result of the affiliation," noting that expected expansion and enhancement of services will create more job opportunities.

The affiliated organizations will be headquartered in Worcester, and the Alternatives will remain a hub for arts and culture and community integration.

“Both agencies are financially and operationally strong and have complementary strengths. This affiliation will enable us to better meet the needs of the individuals and families we serve,” said Bates.

Rice added, “In exploring possible partners with which to affiliate, we wanted to be sure that our missions and values were compatible, and that the outcome would be truly beneficial to the individuals we serve. It became clear that The Bridge and Alternatives will be excellent partners.”

Merger discussions began about two years ago when Rice informed his board of his desire to retire. The Alternatives board of directors, which reportedly considered hiring a replacement executive director, opted instead to merge with The Bridge.

For now, The Bridge and Alternatives will maintain their respective identities, although the organization is engaged in a branding exercise that will develop a new, single name.

The Bridge was founded under that name in 1973 as a residential program for boys. In 1979 it merged with the Community Treatment Center to become The Bridge of Central Massachusetts. In 2003, it moved its headquarters to Worcester. Today, The Bridge offers more than 50 programs in 17 communities throughout central Massachusetts, MetroWest, and Boston.

Alternatives was founded in 1976 in response to a broad move that moved individuals with disabilities out of state institutions and into the community. By 1981 it has 70 employees, and in 2010 assumed operation of North Central Human Services. Today it has offices in Leominster, Milford, Worcester, and Wrentham, in addition to its headquarters in Whitinsville.

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