Following through on an announcement made last summer, Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health have made official the merger between the two companies, creating the country’s third largest nonprofit health system.

Providence, based in Renton, operates two hospitals in the South Sound: Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia and Providence Centralia. Now that the chain’s merge with Irvine, Calif.-based St. Joseph — a fellow Catholic health system — the combined entity will serve as the parent organization for more than 100,000 employees in 50 hospitals across Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

“Today, we bring together two organizations with shared values, aligned missions and like-minded founders – the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange and the Sisters of Providence,” said Annette Walker, interim CEO of St. Joseph Health. “Our heritages inspire us to deliver on a new promise to make communities healthier through best practices, expanded access, and greater affordability and services for those who need them most.”

A statement from Providence St. Joseph said that the newly merged system celebrated its first day by “committing to be a catalyst for improving mental health care in the United States.”

“A cornerstone of our missions is addressing significant social, community and health needs of our most vulnerable populations,” said Rod Hochman, M.D., president & CEO, Providence St. Joseph Health. “One of the most challenging health issues facing our communities today is access to effective mental health services. Together, we will convene diverse partners and will be a catalyst for change for the many who struggle with mental health stigmatization, diagnosis and treatment.”

Providence has already set to work on that stated mission locally; Providence St. Peter and Fairfax Behavioral Health of Everett closed June by filing a joint application for a Certificate of Need to open a new 85-bed psychiatric hospital in Thurston County. The new facility, preemptively dubbed Olympia Behavioral Health LLC, would open in early 2018 if approved. Though the groundwork for Olympia Behavioral Health was laid preceding today's announcement, Providence spokesperson Colleen Wadden said that the potential new hospital is a good example of the new entity's commitment to the cause.

Though similarly named, the new health system does not include Tacoma’s St. Joseph Medical Center, which is a part of CHI Franciscan Health.