LEWISTON — Spurwink, the Portland-based behavioral health and education services nonprofit, is seeking to acquire Tri-County Mental Health Services, which is at risk of closing at the end of the month due to a financial crisis, according to Spurwink President Eric Meyer.

On Feb. 27, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee held a public hearing about the governor’s proposed budget related to health and human services. Many spoke about long patient wait lists and the lack of funding for mental health services.

At the hearing, Spurwink President Eric Meyer requested $2 million from the state to take over Tri-County. It would cover acquisition costs for temporary staffing, legal expenses, additional audit expenses, along with other associated costs, according to written testimony submitted by Meyer to the committee.

If Spurwink does not acquire Tri-County, which employs 180 people and serves 2,000 behavioral health clients, then the Lewiston-based organization could be closed by the end of March, Meyer said during his testimony.

“Sadly, TCMHS is in a significant fiscal crisis and is running out of cash,” he testified. “They can only make payroll through March and will abruptly close at the end of March without a rescue plan.”

Tri-County Chief Executive Officer Catherine Ryder approached Meyer on Jan. 5 asking that Spurwink take over Tri-County, which has locations in Lewiston, Farmington, Bridgton, Rumford and Oxford. Meyer said Tri-County was in discussions with another organization to take over the organization but that plan fell apart.


Ryder declined to comment.

When two organizations come together the process usually takes nine to 18 months to go through a due diligence process, Meyer said. However, the two organizations do not have that long to come to an agreement, so they have been working quickly to share information regarding the risks and opportunities of the acquisition.

Meyer learned Tri-County offers a lot of the same services as Spurwink and its missions are similar. There is also a need in the community for mental health services, especially following the Oct. 25, 2023, mass shooting. Some of the survivors receive services from Tri-County.

However, Meyer also learned that Tri-County is operating in a significant deficit and will likely continue to lose money for most of this year, he said.

If Spurwink takes over Tri-County, it would have to absorb its debt along with the costs associated with the transition, Meyer said. While Spurwink is on good financial ground, as a nonprofit it operates on a thin margin.

Meyer has to bring the acquisition to Spurwink board members to decide whether to take over Tri-County. If the state agrees to cover the nearly $2 million needed for the acquisition, the deal will be more appealing to the board, he said.


Even if the funding does not come until later this year, the organization can temporarily cover the costs until it is reimbursed.

Should Spurwink take over Tri-County, it would be one of the biggest changes in the mental health services industry in the state for the past couple of decades, Spurwink board member Cathy Breen said during her testimony to the committee.

“The acquisition that you just heard about is a big, big deal,” she said. “It’s likely the largest change in the landscape of mental health programs that this state has seen in 20 or 25 years.”

Breen will have a hard time recommending the acquisition to other board members without securing funding from the state, she said.

If Spurwink acquires Tri-County, it would maintain virtually all of its current services, Meyer said. It would also invite all of the staff providing client services to join Spurwink. On the administration side, some will be invited to stay on, but others will be invited to apply for other jobs within Spurwink. The organization also plans to organize job fairs.

Breen credited both organizations’ leadership teams with their due diligence efforts to work on an acquisition in such a short period of time. It is important to preserve the services Tri-County offers to the many people who are using them, she said.

“This fast-track acquisition is vital to maintaining mental health services for thousands of Mainers,” she told the committee.

Despite the financial assistance Spurwink needs to acquire Tri-County, Meyer has a positive outlook for the future of Tri-County’s services in Lewiston, he said.

“While we’re in a really difficult moment and we definitely need help … I think on the other side of it, I do feel really optimistic about how this will help improve services in Lewiston even more than they already are being supported and helped,” he said.

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