PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Rhode Island health officials have approved the merger of the Lifespan and Gateway Healthcare.
The merger, which links the state's largest group of hospitals with its largest provider of community-based mental health services, is expected to be finalized on July 1.
The state Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals announced Thursday it had signed off on the plan.
Dr. Timothy Babineau, Lifespan's chief executive, tells the Providence Journal the merger will allow for a "truly integrated delivery system.''
Officials say the network will help Gateway patients get better access to health care.  They say it also will allow for a smoother transition for mental-health patients from a hospital to a community setting.
The approval requires Gateway and Lifespan to cooperate with other community mental health centers.