From WILL - News Headlines -

Prairie Center/Community Elements Merger Delayed

Two social service agencies facing potentially drastic state budget cuts have delayed a decision to merge.

Last March Prairie Center and Community Elements said they were exploring a merger. Prairie Center provides substance abuse treatment and prevention while Community Elements, formerly the Mental Health Center of Champaign County, provides other mental health services.

Prairie Center director Bruce Suardini said neither agency is clear on their funding from the state for the rest of the fiscal year, not to mention the outcome of the fiscal year 2012 budget. At one point, Prairie Center and other substance-abuse treatment facilities were threatened with a total cutoff of state money.

"Because of the instability of the funding, merging the two agencies together just to merge is not a good business decision," Suardini said. "And not having the budgets in place to understand where we're going for Fiscal Year 2012 keeps that process from finalizing."

Suardini said all other indicators point to a merger as the best option for both mental health providers. But he said merger talks won't resume until the second half of 2011, with a decision possibly delayed until next January.