ASAP, Francis House merger makes Empath Health largest HIV/AIDS services provider in Tampa Bay

By : Jeremy Williams
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ST PETERSBURG – Empath Health announced that AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP) and Hillsborough County’s Francis House will merge in order to expand the HIV/AIDS services available to the Tampa Bay region.

The two non-profits signed an initial memorandum of understanding and will operate under a newly-named member of Empath Health.

“We really felt that we wanted to as much as possible retain the brands for each group, so the campus in Tampa will continue to be called Francis House and the campus in St. Pete will be called ASAP,” Rafael Sciullo, president and CEO of Empath Health, says. “But we wanted to form a combined identity to begin this a new, and it is something both groups will come up with together.”

Empath Health is presently interviewing for the executive director of the combined entity but have not made a final decision regarding the position yet.

Francis House began serving those affected by HIV/AIDS in Tampa’s Seminole Heights area in 1990. ASAP began their HIV/AIDS work in Pinellas County in 1987 and moved under the umbrella of EmpathHealth in 1997.

“First and foremost, what I think started to make the thought of a merger click is that both our missions are aligned. We are both not for profit organizations that have been in the community for a very long time,” Sciullo says.

The merger of ASAP and Francis House will make Empath Health the largest HIV/AIDS service provider in the Tampa Bay area.

“When you combine the number of lives impacted by both Francis House and ASAP, it’s approximately 10,000 lives,” Sciullo says. “Our scope is going to be pretty large.”

Discussions to merge ASAP and Francis House began with ASAP’s previous executive director William Harper and the current executive director of Francis House, Joy Winheim.

“We were approached some time ago by William who said that funding was getting more competitive and wouldn’t it be stronger for us and the community if we merged together in the future,” Winheim says. “We thought about it and said you know, this might not be a bad idea. We brought it to our board, and both boards got together and talked about the ways we could make this work.”

Empath Health has nine different agencies under them, including ASAP, and all those agencies will become available to Francis House patients, and while Francis House will remain their own separate entity, they too will be under that umbrella of Empath.

“It insures longevity,” Winheim says. “Francis House has always been a smaller nonprofit, we have only 15 employees, although it’s bigger than when we started which was just three of us. Although we have grown, it is getting more competitive and if we want to be here five years from now then we need to explore every option to make sure that happens.”

The merger comes less than a year after ASAP opened Home 3050, a one-stop shop for HIV/AIDS related services and care in St. Petersburg. This homecare model is expected to be mirrored by Francis House in Tampa.

“We have had a wonderful reception to [Home 3050] from our clients in Pinellas County and we look forward to replicating that in Hillsborough County,” Sciullo says. “What services we offer in Pinellas will be offered in Hillsborough.”

The merger between the organizations have began the process of due diligence and should be complete by this fall.

“The important thing we want the patients and clients to know is with the services they use and where they go for them will remain the same, they won’t feel a change,” Winheim says.

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