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Old 09-17-2013, 12:11 AM
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Cool 2 Groups For The Blind Merge

From the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/ny....html?src=recg
Hoping to Raise Awareness, 2 Leading Groups for the Blind Plan a Merger
By JAMES BARRON
Published: September 16, 2013
Two venerable nonprofit organizations based in Manhattan that provide health care and rehabilitation services for blind and visually impaired people are merging, with the top officials of both groups raising the possibility of broad affiliations among similar local groups around the country.
The two organizations that are joining forces, Jewish Guild Healthcare and Lighthouse International, have slightly different specialties and slightly different patient populations. The new organization will be known as Lighthouse Guild International.

“The Lighthouse is a worldwide household name in terms of vision services, and the Guild has highly developed models within health care,” said Dr. Alan R. Morse, who is the president and chief executive of Jewish Guild Healthcare and will have the same title in the new organization. “Both of our programs will benefit from each other.”

Joseph A. Ripp, who is the chairman of Lighthouse International and will be the vice chairman of the combined organization, said it could “raise the profile of vision loss,” just as organizations that concentrate on heart disease and kidney disease have done for those illnesses.

“What’s happening is as the population ages, macular degeneration is becoming a serious issue for America,” Mr. Ripp said. “The good news is we’re living longer. The bad news is we’re most likely to have vision issues as we get older.” Dr. Morse has long warned that diabetes and accompanying vision loss are increasing.

Dr. Morse and the president and chief executive of Lighthouse International, Mark G. Ackermann, said that for now, the two operations would remain separate and at their current addresses. Jewish Guild Healthcare has its headquarters on West 65th Street near Central Park and runs five adult health day care centers around New York State. Lighthouse International, based on East 59th Street near Park Avenue, specializes in low-vision rehabilitation and social services, and runs a music school.

Mr. Ackermann, who will be the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lighthouse Guild International once the merger is completed early next year, said the combination “rounds out the services that the Lighthouse has and enables us to expand our treatment of the whole person” with the mental health services the Guild offers. All 41 members of the boards of the two organizations will have seats on the board of Lighthouse Guild International.

The chairman will be James M. Dubin, who is now the chairman of Jewish Guild Healthcare. He said the combined organization could have a stronger voice in advocating programs for the blind like the Guild’s long-term managed-care operation, which is financed with federal Medicaid money that is allocated by the state.

“If there’s a 2 percent cut, which there was a year and a half ago, our goal is to provide the same kind of service and do it with less funding from the state,” Mr. Dubin said. “We have to be cognizant of what’s going on in Washington and Albany, and so does the Lighthouse.”

Jewish Guild Healthcare was founded in 1914 as the New York Guild for the Jewish Blind; it changed its name to the Jewish Guild for the Blind in 1960, then to Jewish Guild Healthcare in 2012. Lighthouse International was founded in 1905 as the New York Association for the Blind.

“Lighthouse International has a great name,” Mr. Dubin said, adding that there are 30 local groups around the country whose names include the word “lighthouse,” none affiliated with the one in New York. “We are hoping to reach out and start some national affiliation. My guess is if we can affiliate with Lighthouse in Chicago, Dallas, wherever, we’ll learn from them just as they can learn from us.”

Mr. Ackermann, who became the top official at the Lighthouse four years ago, said he and Dr. Morse began talking about joining forces several months ago. Dr. Morse has worked on research papers with Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, who leads the low-vision clinic at the Lighthouse.

“Our staff cooperates all the time,” Dr. Morse said, “but it’s been on a casual, ad hoc basis, nothing institutional. There are linkages between the Guild and the Lighthouse and the Lighthouse and the Guild on many levels. Their teachers talk with our teachers, our rehabilitation professionals talk with theirs.”

He said their discussions “evolved” through the summer. “Finally,” he said, “it was, ‘Why hadn’t we done this before?’ ”
A version of this article appears in print on September 17, 2013, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Hoping to Raise Awareness, 2 Leading Groups for the Blind Plan a Merger .
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