Rebecca Campbell Aug. 4, 2016, 7:39pm

LOS ANGELES – St. Joseph Health and Providence Health & Services are to merge, creating the nation’s third-largest nonprofit health system.

The merging between the Irvine-based and Renton, Washington-based companies was signed off by the California Attorney General’s office; however, conditions have been added to the deal. Namely, that the new merger is required to undertake a three-year, $30 million mental health initiative in California in order to tackle addiction, depression, homelessness and other issues.

Homelessness is a serious issue within California at the moment, but it is hoped that this merger will tackle the issues that most impact the state. Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown was called upon by state lawmakers to declare a state of emergency in response to the issue.

The new entity, Providence St. Joseph Health, will include 16 St. Joseph hospitals, including five in Orange County, and 34 Providence hospitals, including six in Los Angeles County.

Speaking to the Northern California Record, Spokeswoman for St. Joseph Health Nisha Morris said that the two companies are better together through the partnership where they will have the opportunity to bring their expertise and resources together under one organization.

“Together we hope to expand our services, bring care and support to new areas where it’s needed the most [and] expand our community benefit programs,” said Morris. “[We want to] attract and retain the best physicians and produce better clinical outcomes and preventive care that actually improves the overall quality of life in our communities.”

With 50 hospitals, 829 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing and many other health and educational services, the health system and its partners employ more than 100,000 caregivers serving communities across seven states: Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

“Our absolute top priority is providing the best, highest-quality health care we can, and there is no question that this partnership will help us do that,” said Morris.

Despite the fact that Providence and St. Joseph Health deliver excellent care in their regions, they also know that their communities need more support regarding services such as outpatient, post-acute care, wellness programs, mental health services, expert physicians and even virtual networks.

“When we come together as a combined organization, we can 'go deep' in providing these services,” said Morris. “Our commitment begins immediately with a huge investment in one of the most critical health issues we face – mental health.”

Morris added that with the merging of the two organizations they can begin working together with the goal of addressing the broad health challenges that impact entire communities.

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