One hundred seventy-three years ago – in 1842 to be exact – the “New Hampshire Asylum for the Insane” (the forerunner of New Hampshire Hospital) was constructed in Concord, NH.
- The 120 acres on which the hospital campus was situated were purchased with a $9,500 grant from the City of Concord.
- The construction of this “Asylum” was, at the time, a philanthropic response to a dire need.
- At its peak, New Hampshire Hospital housed 2,700 people on its campus.
Fast forward 110 years to the late 1950’s.
- A group of concerned community members in Concord came together to address a need that they saw for mental health services for children and families.
- Local efforts evolved, during this period, into the Concord Mental Health Center.
- In 1963 President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act into law, providing grants to the states to fund community mental health centers.
The Center opened its doors in 1964 with an operating budget of $20,000.
- It was staffed by one social worker and one secretary.
- Consulting services were provided by other area mental health professionals, including child psychiatrist Dr. Anna Philbrook, a pioneer of the community mental health movement in New Hampshire.
From the start, there was an ever-growing demand for services. Responsiveness to community need was a core value of the Center, so it expanded and diversified.
- During its first decade it added services for adults, couples and families, in addition to children.
- Accessibility to the broader geographic community was enhanced by opening branch offices in Henniker, New London and Franklin.
By the end of the 1970’s the Center had become a comprehensive, regional community mental health agency.
- Reflecting that, its name was changed to Central New Hampshire Community Mental Health Services, Inc.
In the 1980’s, the State of New Hampshire chose to focus its funding primarily on services for people with long-term or severe mental illness, children and the elderly.
- This meant that funding for services to adults with less severe mental illness had to be found elsewhere, or the funding for services would be removed.
- The decision was to find ways to continue to serve all people in need of mental health services.
- The Riverbend Counseling Centers were created to provide services to adults with less severe mental illness. They offered counseling on a fee basis.
- At the same time, community fundraising efforts were increased to help subsidize fees for people without health insurance or without the ability to privately pay for services.
Changes during the 1990’s included increasing pressures on the managed care front and tremendous growth in developing comprehensive, community-based supports for people with the greatest needs, including children and adolescents and their families, and adults and elders.
- 1995 was marked by a new name – Riverbend Community Mental Health, Inc. – and a strong reaffirmation of the Center’s community-focused mission.
- Riverbend became one of the larger employers in Merrimack County, with a workforce of nearly 300 people.
- Riverbend’s staff served approximately 7,000 people a year and continued its pioneering spirit, developing ancillary services, such as John H. Whittaker Place (an assisted living facility in Penacook) and Mill House in 1997.
- In 1999 Business NH Magazine named Riverbend the “NH Business of the Year in Health Care.”
Riverbend entered the 21st Century with more awards.
- Named the “Year 2000 Effective, Efficient Provider Organization” by the National Council for Community Behavioral Health Care.
- In 2001 Mill House received the “MetLife Foundation Award for Excellence in Affordable Housing.”
- In 2001 Riverbend received the Walter J. Dunfey Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management.
- 2009 “Award for Excellence” from Sequest Technologies recognized our national leadership in developing an Electronic Medical Record.
- 2012 CATCH “Housing Hero Award” presented to our Project to Assist with Transistional Housing.
- Granite United Way recognizes our employees with its “Give Award.”
- 2012 Non-profit Business of the Year recognition by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce
As the healthcare environment has changed, Riverbend adapted and continued to be a leader in its field.
- Riverbend has a strong affiliation with Capital Region Healthcare (Concord Hospital, Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association and Monadnock Hospital) and works closely with other providers in the Central New Hampshire area to optimize continuity of care and efficiencies of operation.
- Riverbend is at the forefront of the mental health industry in its development of electronic recordkeeping capacities.
- The implementation of evidence-based practices in mental health services is a high priority in New Hampshire and at Riverbend.
While community mental health has seen incredible growth over the past fifty years, practitioners continue to be challenged to meet increased demands for services in an environment of declining resources.
From its pioneering early days, as a two-person operation in 1964 to the present, Riverbend has been creative and resourceful in remaining true to its mission and vision.