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Family Counseling Services asks for loan, considers merger with Credo

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Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions and the financially strapped Family Counseling Services of Northern New York are considering a merger.

“It’s probably premature to say much about it other than it’s in early stages,” said Credo Executive Director James P. Scordo.

News of the possible merger comes as the Watertown Local Development Corp. will consider next week a $30,000 loan to Family Counseling.

The WLDC’s Loan and Review Committee approved the five-year loan for the nonprofit agency Wednesday, and its full board will take up the loan April 18. Jefferson County Community Services Director Roger J. Ambrose said Family Counseling and Credo had talked before about exploring a license with the state Office of Mental Health. If a merger were to occur, he said, that license may be used for reimbursement purposes.

Mr. Scordo said Credo’s outpatient treatment program, based out of its 595 W. Main St. office, has grown so much that its administrative team might have to relocate off-site. He said the that idea of relocating staff came up before consideration of a merger with Family Counseling, which is located at 120 Washington St., Suite 510.

“In the next month, I think we’ll have a little bit better idea on both of those things,” he said.

Credo has provided services and treatment for more than 30 years to individuals, groups, families, adults, adolescents and children whose lives have been hurt by substance abuse, according to its website.

Founded in 1958, Family Counseling provides individual, marital and family counseling, sexual abuse and domestic violence counseling and clinical consultations. It has 17 employees who handle more than 1,000 visits per month.

The $30,000 loan would keep the agency operational until it can receive reimbursements for services it has provided to clients.

“We were delayed because codes used for billing were switched,” said Collene D. Alexander, Family Counseling Services CEO. “There were no payments in January and most of February, so then (we got) behind.”

Payments stemming from that issue are now just starting to come in, she said.

The agency already has a five-year, $30,000 loan with the WLDC, also known as the Watertown Trust. The agency still owes $13,000. Donald W. Rutherford, the local development corporation’s CEO, said the agency will continue to make the same amount in payments as it does now,

Family Counseling would use the WLDC loan as working capital while it waits for governmental and insurance reimbursements, Mr. Rutherford said.

Before the vote, the revolving loan committee discussed rumors about changes at the nonprofit.

Loan review committee member Erika F. Flint, who also is executive director of the Watertown Urban Mission, inquired about how the loan would be affected by any changes that Family Counseling may be planning. After the meeting, she said she had not heard about a potential merger with Credo.

Mr. Rutherford said the loan was a separate issue. Contacted afterward, Mr. Rutherford said he had no first-hand knowledge of whether something was pending at Family Counseling.

At the meeting, however, Mr. Rutherford, who had been the agency’s board president about 20 years ago, praised Family Counseling’s work in the community, noting the help its clients have received.

“There’s nowhere else for them to get help,” he said. “It’s a badly needed service.”

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