Our Merger

In an ever-changing health care environment, it is important to be proactive and responsive to community needs. That’s why, on January 1, 2018,  Families First Health & Support Center of Portsmouth and Goodwin Community Health of Somersworth merged, becoming one organization. What the community most needs and loves about Families First and Goodwin will not change. Both will continue doing business under their current names and at their current locations. Both will continue to offer all existing programs and services and, with each other’s help, will expand those services over time.


Key Points

  • Goodwin and Families First will each still be in the same convenient locations and go by the same names.
  • The organization’s overarching legal name (not being used publicly) is Greater Seacoast Community Health.
  • Janet Laatsch  is the CEO of the merged organization. Laatsch, who has expertise in finance and nursing, has served as CEO of Goodwin since 2005.
  • Helen Taft, Families First Executive Director since 1989, retired on December 31, 2017.
  • A single Board of Directors will be created, comprised of 21 board members. Roughly half of the board members will come from each organization.
  • The merged entity will be one of New Hampshire’s largest community health centers, serving almost 16,800 local adults and children, many of them uninsured, underinsured or lacking access to affordable, quality health care.

Questions & Answers

Impact on Clients

What will be different for patients and clients?

Most of the changes will be behind-the-scenes improvements. Both Goodwin and Families First will still be in the same locations, go by the same names, and provide patients with the same access to the high-quality health and wellness services they’ve come to expect. There will be no immediate changes to fees, but the sliding fee scale will be adjusted from time to time, as it always has been. As is the case now, fees may be waived entirely in cases of hardship, such as homelessness.

In the long run – ranging from a couple of months to a couple of years after the merger –  patients will be able to access more services, have more choice about where and when to be seen, and benefit from advances in technology that a larger organization has more capacity to invest in.

Will patients still be able to see the same provider?

Yes. Your provider and your team (nurse, care coordinator and referral coordinator) will still be the people taking care of you.

Will Goodwin and Families First share information about patients?

If you have been a patient at Goodwin and are now a patient at Families First (or vice versa), your current provider will have access to your records from both places. Knowing your medical history will help us provide better care for you.

After the merger, will I be able to go back and forth between Families First and Goodwin?

This may be possible in the future. For now, you can be seen only at the site where you are currently established as a patient.

Will any programs and services end because of this?

No. In fact, you might be able to access a broader range of services, because Families First and Goodwin each offer some services that the other doesn’t.

Will the merger affect my Medicare, Medicaid or other health insurance coverage? No.

Impact on Donors

Will donors be able to designate contributions to either Families First or Goodwin alone?

Yes. After the merger takes effect and the two organizations become one, donors will be able to earmark donations to support programs at Families First or programs at Goodwin.

How are the expenses of the merger being covered?

Expenses are being covered through grants from foundations, so that all donor contributions remain dedicated to community health programs and services. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Thomas W. Haas Fund, Elizabeth G. Plumer Charitable Trust and Piscataqua Region Community Fund covered initial expenses. The Foundation then added a $50,000 challenge grant which was met by The Foundation for Seacoast Health, Endowment for Health, Greater Seacoast United Way, the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation, Bank of New Hampshire and an anonymous donor. The Foundation invested in this work because it supports the goal of proactively lowering costs and improving quality.

Will the new organization need significant support from foundations, businesses and individuals?

Yes. Although one goal of the merger is to increase the reimbursement received from insurance companies, Goodwin and Families First collectively have over 3,200 uninsured patients, as well as many more who are underinsured. It takes a diversified range of funding sources  – insurance reimbursement, patient fees, government funding, grants and donor contributions – to ensure that everyone can be served. It will be essential to maintain or increase income from grants and individual and corporate contributions. Families First has been successful at philanthropy throughout Rockingham County and plans to grow this program into Strafford County.

The Plan

Will Goodwin Community Health and Families First keep their own identities and facilities, or will one agency be folded into the other?

The organizations will keep their separate identities, do business under their existing names and keep providing all current programs and services at existing locations. The new legal name of the merged organization (Greater Seacoast Community Health) will not be used publicly because the names Goodwin and Families First are well-known and well-respected.

Who will lead the merged organization?

Janet Laatsch, CEO of Goodwin, will lead the combined agency.  A registered nurse with an MBA, she has been with Goodwin since 2001, starting out as a nurse and grantwriter. She became the CFO in 2004 and the CEO in 2005.

Helen Taft, executive director of Families First since 1989, will retire from her current position when the merger takes effect. She will stay on as a consultant during the initial phase of the transition.  Helen was a driving force behind the effort to join the two agencies and feels very positive about this step.

The management structure below the CEO level will be determined over the next several months, before the merger takes place. It will include managers from both Families First and Goodwin.

Will staff from either location be laid off?

Layoffs are not planned and are unlikely to happen, for several reasons. After the merger, both Families First and Goodwin will continue providing the same services, at the same locations, to the same number of people, which means that roughly the same size workforce will be needed. Both Families First and Goodwin are leanly staffed already. This is not like mergers you may have heard about that are driven by a need to cut costs. In fact, one goal in becoming a larger organization is to improve employee recruitment and retention, given that both agencies often have open positions and New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is only 2.4%.

Will the two current boards of directors merge?

Yes. A single Board of Directors will oversee the combined agency. It will have 21 members, more than half of whom will be patients at one of the health centers, as is the case now. The new board will be comprised of a roughly equal number of members of the two current boards.

The Process

When did Families First and Goodwin begin talking about merging? 

In August 2013, a 10-person committee consisting of four board members from each organization and both executive directors was formed to explore whether and how to increase and formalize our longstanding collaboration and reap further benefits. Prior to that, as community health centers serving adjacent regions, Families First and Goodwin had a three-decade history of sharing resources and ideas, serving together on regional and state boards and coalitions, and undertaking joint projects.

What process did you follow to make the decision to merge?

While the joint committee met every month for more than three years, each organization performed its own due-diligence process. The committee then brought in outside legal and financial experts to advise them.  Finance and operations CPA Peter Epp of Cohn and Reznick evaluated the due-diligence materials and drafted financial projections for a combined organization. Attorney Mark McCue of Hinckley Allen conducted legal due diligence and reviewed different organizational models to determine which would be most suitable to combining Goodwin and Families First and satisfying the requirements of our federal funder, the Health Resources & Services Administration. Later, attorney Jackie Liefer of Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP, who has expertise in merging community health centers, will help consolidate the organizations’ federal grants. In April and May 2017, first the joint exploratory committee and then the full Board of Directors of each organization voted to approve the proposed terms of agreement.

How was the new CEO chosen?

A selection committee made up of members of both boards of directors interviewed and nominated Janet Laatsch. Both full boards then voted unanimously to approve her as CEO.

About Families First and Goodwin

What are the main similarities between the missions and services of Families First and Goodwin?

Families First and Goodwin share very similar missions and a patient-first mentality focused on removing whatever barriers stand in the way of a person’s ability to access quality health care. Both accept Medicaid, Medicare and many private insurance plans, and both offer a sliding fee scale for uninsured and underinsured patients.

Both agencies provide primary and prenatal health care, dental care, counseling, medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse, benefits enrollment and care coordination.

What are the main differences between the two agencies’ services?

In addition to providing all of the above-named services:

  • Families First also provides home visiting for families facing challenges, parenting classes, family programs, and mobile health and dental clinics.
  • Goodwin also provides Intensive Outpatient Programs to treat substance use disorders and WIC nutrition services to Strafford and Carroll counties; partners with SOS Recovery Community Centers in Durham, Dover and Rochester; and has a pharmacy.

Goodwin FF mapWhat region does each health center serve?

Individuals choose for themselves where they want to go for services, and will continue to do so. Both Goodwin and Families First attract people living throughout eastern Rockingham County and Strafford County in New Hampshire and southern York County in Maine. That said, Families First’s clients come primarily from Portsmouth and the immediate Seacoast region, while Goodwin’s come primarily from Strafford County.

Are both Goodwin and Families First in good health financially?

Yes. Unlike some mergers, this one is not driven by financial weakness on the part of one or both organizations. Rather, this is a proactive effort to position ourselves to benefit from future financial opportunities, as well as from synergies. Both Families First and Goodwin are in strong financial shape, with positive fund balances in recent years and clean audits. (We invite you to visit our websites to see our annual reports, audits and IRS Form 990s.) At the same time, agency leaders recognize that each organization is too small to benefit fully from changes in a health care environment that increasingly provides financial advantages to larger organizations, so we will join forces to improve our positions.

Why We Merged: Three Reasons

1. A Good Fit: Shared Missions

This merger leverages the fact that Families First and Goodwin have:

  •  a 30-year history of collaborating and sharing best practices and resources
  • nearly identical charitable missions, organizational structures and core services (integrated primary, prenatal, dental and behavioral health care)
  • strong management and administrative operations
  • cultures that are patient-centered and fiscally prudent
  • adjacent service areas
  •  complementary skill sets and strengths, which will be shared to benefit clients

2. Expanding Opportunities

This merger will create operational efficiencies, financial advantages, economies of scale and clinical integration, including:

  • expansion of programs and services, such as mobile health care, substance abuse treatment and parenting programs
  • sharing of best practices to improve access, quality, and efficiency of services and operations
  • ability to negotiate better benefits packages due to larger staff size, enhancing staff recruitment and retention
  • financial advantages, such as more access to capital to support infrastructure and growth opportunities, and lower operating costs due to economies of scale
  • further diversification of funding sources to enhance financial stability

3. Bigger is Stronger

This merger represents a proactive approach to meet the demands of a rapidly changing health care system. Being larger gives the organization:

  • strength in contract negotiations with larger health care organizations
  •  better positioning to benefit from new insurance systems that base reimbursement on patient outcomes and reduction of unnecessary costs, such as non-urgent ER visits
  •  a regionalized, integrated health care delivery system
  • more opportunity to receive grant funding, resulting in enhanced programs and services

For more information

Your comments, questions or concerns are welcome. Please stay in touch. The following Families First directors will be happy to answer your questions:

Janet Laatsch, CEO, jlaatsch@GoodwinCH.org, (603) 422-8208 ext. 120

Margie Wachtel, Communications Director (Families First), mwachtel@FamiliesFirstSeacoast.org, (603) 422-8208 ext. 141

Lara Willard, Director of Marketing & Community Relations (Goodwin Community Health), lwillard@goodwinch.org, (603) 516-2558

Joann Neumann, Development Director, jneumann@FamiliesFirstSeacoast.org, (603) 422-8208 ext. 144

Merger announcement document (PDF, 8 pages)

Merger agreement (PDF, 16 pages)

Media coverage

Goodwin and Families First Complete Merger
Press Release | January 2018

Lessons from the field: Nonprofit mergers
New Hampshire Charitable Foundation | November 2017

Q&A with Goodwin Community Health CEO Janet Laatsch
New Hampshire Business Review | September 15, 2017

Families First, Goodwin awarded for quality
Seacoast Sunday | September 10, 2017

Partnership for a healthy future
Seacoast Sunday | June 4, 2017

Merger of community health centers benefits all (editorial)
Portsmouth Herald | June 3, 2017

“Thumbs up” for increasing care (editorial)
Foster’s Daily Democrat | May 26, 2017

Goodwin, Families First to merge
Press release | May 2017