May 26, 2018
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PCHC-Warren Center merger to ensure access to services

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The Warren Center for Communication and Learning has been acquired by Penobscot Community Health Care in a merger both organizations say will ensure access in eastern Maine to essential speech and hearing services.

“This gives us the opportunity to ensure the future of our services,” said Warren Center executive director Mary Poulin, speaking on Thursday at a formal announcement of the merger.

The merger, which took effect April 1, will streamline administrative tasks and bring in larger reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, Poulin said. Warren Center clients will see no difference in the services they receive, she added, and do not need to become patients of PCHC. The name of the Warren Center will not change, and no jobs will be lost as a result of the merger, she said.

The Warren Center provides hearing evaluations, hearing aid services and hearing comprehension assessments as well as speech therapy and other services to people of all ages and in all income brackets. Through community outreach programs, its clinicians work in settings ranging from preschools to nursing homes.

The Warren Center also offers social support for adolescents and teens with Asperger’s syndrome, teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to communicate more effectively with the hearing world and provides free hearing aids to low-income adults and children.

Formerly named the Bangor Regional Speech and Hearing Center, the Warren Center was established in 1961 through the efforts of the now-disbanded Junior League in Bangor, under the leadership of Junior League president Joanne Van Namee. The nonprofit organization was renamed the Warren Center in 1996 after Richard Warren, Joanne Van Namee’s son and the current publisher of the Bangor Daily News, headed the fundraiser to purchase the small brick building on Hammond Street that now houses the center.

Speaking on Thursday, Warren expressed confidence in the future of the program that bears his name. PCHC, he said, “has earned its place as a highly responsible health care provider in this community.”

Ken Schmidt, CEO of PCHC, said his organization recognized long ago that “the head is connected to the body.” As a result, he said, PCHC’s comprehensive services include dental care, mental health care and, now, the speech and hearing services provided by the Warren Center, in addition to primary medical care.

“The Warren Center will go on just the way it has been,” said former Warren Center board president James Nason. He praised PCHC for “breaking new ground” in the range of services it provides to its patients, many of whom are elderly, low-income and lacking health coverage.

As a result of the merger announced Thursday, the Warren Center board of directors has been dissolved. Nason and board treasurer Jennifer Eastman, however, have joined the PCHC board of directors.

The Warren Center employs eight speech pathologists, three audiologists and four administrative staff. The center treated nearly 3,000 individuals in 2008. More than half of the center’s clients are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

PCHC was founded in Bangor in 1997 and is now one of the largest primary care practices in the state. As a federally qualified health center, its mission is to provide comprehensive health care services to individuals covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans as well as those without insurance coverage. Services are provided on a sliding fee basis. The agency serves about 50,000 patients from the Bangor area and beyond.

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