Alzheimer’s Chapters Continue To Disaffiliate

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the separation of a fourth affiliate, Greater New Jersey, on Dec. 18.

Two Southern California affiliates of the Alzheimer’s Association today became the latest to defect from the national organization, six weeks ahead of a deadline to sign a merger agreement.

The Orange County chapter and the Alzheimer’s Association of San Diego/Imperial Counties joined the New York City Chapter in announcing plans to break off rather than go forward with the national organization in a consolidation of 81 affiliates. Fifty-four traditional chapters of the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association have until Jan. 15 to sign a merger agreement as part of a plan dubbed Mission Forward. The Greater New Jersey chapter announced on Dec. 18 that it would become an independent organization, Alzheimer’s New Jersey. The local board voted unanimously on Nov. 19 to separate, becoming the fourth chapter to disaffiliate, and sent a letter informing the national office on Friday.

Both organizations already have new names and websites. The new name, logo and colors for Alzheimer’s Orange County were put up on the Irvine, Calif. headquarters today, said Mike Lancaster, chairman of the board. The New York City chapter, which announced its decision Monday, is expected to unveil a new name within six weeks.

The four chapters accounted for almost $18 million in total revenue in the most recent fiscal year (2014): New York City, $7 million; Orange County, $4.5 million, Greater New Jersey, $3.3 million, and San Diego, $3.1 million. They were among 27 traditional chapters to vote against the so-called Mission Forward plan for merging during a chapter delegate assembly in October. The national board voted 28-1 to approve the Mission Forward plan. Collectively, Alzheimer’s Association and its chapters reported total revenue of approximately $273 million last year, including $131 million by the national office.

Among the concerns raised by affiliates during the process were care and support at the local level under a consolidated organization and specific plans for what the organization would look like in the aftermath.

“The restructuring would have severely jeopardized the San Diego chapter’s ability to provide the quality and level of service the community has relied on for more than 35 years,” Mary Ball, president and CEO of what is now Alzheimer’s San Diego, said via a statement released today, although the local board unanimously voted Oct. 27 to separate. Chapters did not have a meaningful say in the decision, according to the statement. Local affiliates also were concerned about control over assets as well as their governing boards.

Orange County sent a letter to the national office today informing leadership of the plans to disaffiliate, according to Lancaster. “We’ve had a great relationship with the national organization. There was nothing derogatory in any way in our decision,” he said.

The local board decided unanimously last month to disaffiliate, according to Lancaster. “It boiled down to there not being a business case to do it in the first place. There was not a clear business plan, what it would look like, feel like, be organized as,” once the consolidation was completed, he said.

Both chapters said they believed operating as an independent entity would be more beneficial to their local constituency and serve their needs better while also not having to send 40 percent of unrestricted dollars to national. “We thought we could do a better job in the local marketplace to support the cause and care,” Lancaster said.

“Hopefully, like any divorce, it’s one that can be done as smoothly as possible,” he said. “We know the accounting aspects that need to be flushed out, know the particulars of what we need to do. Those are being done, hopefully done in very open and good fashion, and not any animosity.”

More affiliates are expected to separate in the coming weeks. National board Chairman Stewart Putnam said Monday that he’s heard from about a half-dozen affiliates that committed to continuing with the organization and expects the “vast majority” of chapters to be part of the merger. The organization, he’s said, also is committed to introducing its services in areas where chapters disaffiliate.