Riverbend Unveils Plan to Improve Community Care in NH

 CONCORD – It started in 1964 in a small office with a single social worker and one secretary. Client files were kept in the bathroom.  From humble beginnings, a movement has grown. 50 years later, Riverbend has evolved into a community-based agency with deep roots and advanced treatment techniques.  JFK’s 1960’s Community Health Initiative provided the opportunity and a special group of local leaders built the foundation for modern health care in New Hampshire.

 2014 is a year of celebration for Riverbend.  Five decades after a meager start, the non-profit agency focuses on evidence-based practices such as Assertive Community Treatment, Supported Employment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment.  All of these interventions emphasize the important concept of recovery from mental illness as an expectation. And all of them have grown out of the discovery in the early 1960s that mental health care had no focus on prevention, and no plan to really help people.

 Betty Eberhart was one of the pioneers of New Hampshire mental health care.  She helped found Riverbend and is co-chairing the 50th anniversary celebration.  Betty joined the effort to train volunteers for mental health care, a national first.  And she is fond of quoting her peers who say, “We should be at the top of the river finding out who is pushing these people into the water, instead of waiting at the mouth of the river working just to pull people out.”

 For 50 years, Riverbend has provided counseling and help to those who need it.  Riverbend has adapted and changed to meet the challenges of today’s world, with a focus on prevention, healing, recovery and hope.   

“My hope is that these series of celebrations focus our community on two important areas in mental health: access to care and quality of care,” explains Gretchen Grappone, co-chair of Riverbend’s 50th Anniversary effort. Gretchen is a clinician and a former client.  She intends to lead a renewed focus on outcome-based treatment, as well as efforts to erase the stigma around mental health care. “Let us celebrate the fact that people can recover from mental illness.” 

CEO Peter Evers announced a year-long effort to change the dialogue about mental health in New Hampshire.  The agency will host events focused on erasing stigma and seeking new ways to improve care through new techniques and shared resources.  “We are innovating, cajoling, fighting for new ways to be involved in the community,” explains Evers. “We are looking forward, with a laser focus on recovery and with renewed energy to find more resources for those in need.”

Tracy Craigue appreciates the effort.  A longtime Riverbend client calls the agency the main part of her life; a place where she feels safe and where she feels like she belongs.  She describes her life like a puzzle.  “Everyone has seen when a puzzle first starts, it’s just 500 pieces on the floor; no picture, just pieces scattered in a pile.  Riverbend helps me find the edges.  Riverbend helps me piece things together so I can see for myself what I need to work on and how I can find recovery.”