A high-profile Sonoma County nonprofit agency is merging with a school for adolescents with mental health issues and other learning challenges.

California Parenting Institute, or CPI, which runs counseling, support and other assistance programs for children and parents, announced an agreement to merge with the far smaller New Direction School.

The two nonprofits, which are both headquartered in Santa Rosa and serve overlapping constituencies, are seeking to reduce costs by consolidating some administrative functions. The move will also open the door to a broader array of funding sources, officials said.

Talks about the merger have been under way for about a year, said Robin Bowen, executive director of CPI, which was founded in 1978. She will head the new organization.

"What prompted the conversation was the fact that there were financial hardships in terms of funding for all the programs, and basically when you're looking at those kinds of things, you want to look at ways to diversify," Bowen said.

California Parenting Institute has a $2.6 million budget, while New Direction School, whose students are referred by school districts around the county, has a $600,000 budget.

New Direction, termed a non-public school, is funded by state and county education dollars. It has two classrooms and provides both academic instruction and therapy programs for up to 24 students.

Little will change under the new arrangement, Bowen said, but it will allow for expanded services in both agencies.

"It just adds strength to both sides of the equation," she said.

The merger will not lead to layoffs, she said. The newly joined agency will have about 74 employees.

You can reach Staff WriterJeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.