Rising out of the enlightened concerns of a voluntary community group in 1948, AMH or WWAMH (the Warren-Washington Association for Mental Health, Inc.) has grown into a dynamic service organization.
Each day, WWAMH positively contributes to our community by providing mental health services and support to a large number of children, adolescents, and adults. WWAMH also contributes to the economic wellbeing of our community by employing a sizeable work force who live in our neighborhoods.
WWAMH remains true to its task of speaking and working on behalf of all those in our community whose lives are made more difficult because of a psychiatric disorder.
In 1948, a group of local citizens formed the “Glens Falls Mental Hygiene Association”, a private, not-for-profit corporation, with the purpose of promoting the betterment of mental health in this area.
As concerns expanded and terminology changed, so did the name and the 1957 “Warren County Mental Hygiene Association” ultimately became what is known today as AMH or WWAMH - the “Warren- Washington Association for Mental Health, Inc.”
The original intent of the Agency was to provide education in mental health issues, and to attract mental health professionals to the area. A specific goal of the early organization was to establish a “neuro-psychiatric clinic”. WWAMH was successful in achieving these goals, although establishment of a permanent clinic took a number of years.
In the 1960’s, the Agency worked with the Glens Falls Hospital to create a community mental health center. The Agency was the grantee for funding to begin this project. In 1970, the current Mental Health Center was created as an entity separate from the Agency.
In 1973, the mission of the organization was altered to include advocacy for a broad range of supportive services including the creation of a social club for those with psychiatric disorders. In that year, Liberty House was formed under the direction of the Agency. Once the program was established, it was turned over to an independent Board of Directors, and it became a freestanding entity in 1975.
In 1977, the Glens Falls Hospital Mental Health Center asked the Agency to consider developing a halfway house for people being discharged from the local inpatient unit and state facilities. This was near the beginning of the deinstitutionalization movement, where state psychiatric hospitals were reducing services and sending people back to their communities. To accommodate the increased need, WWAMH agreed to work on the development of a residence program and amended its incorporation documents accordingly.
During the next year, 1978, a permanent, full time Executive Director was hired and Genesis, the first residence program in our community, opened in November. Genesis housed eight residents and was staffed by the Executive Director and three counselors.
Within the first year of operation, it was apparent that both more and a greater variety of residential programming were needed; and so, work began on a “satellite” apartment program. In 1980, the first apartments were opened with one staff person. Discussion of the possibility of a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) project also began in 1980. These discussions came to fruition in 1984 with the creation of the Maple Street Program.
In the meantime, other services were expanding. In 1982, the first formal case management activities were created, and a full-time person was hired. In the same year, the Satellite Apartment Program expanded by two staff with seven apartments and fifteen residents. By the next year this program grew to include twenty-four residents. The number of staff remained the same.
The Maple Street Apartment Program opened in 1984, a new concept to the Agency’s housing configuration. This program added eight apartments for twelve residents in a single site. At the same time, a staff person was added to the Satellite Program.
In 1985, a psychosocial club – South Street Center, on South Street in Glens Falls, was proposed and developed by the Agency. This was an innovative, client centered program, which became very popular and, as a result, grew rapidly. It now serves between 70 and 80 members a day and is located at 230 Maple Street in Glens Falls. A name change to East Side Center was the result of the new and improved site. Case Management was also changing into a distinct program and growing to two and one-half staff.
The following year, 1986, was busy: the Office of Mental Health (OMH) proposed a “new model” for community residences. Program requirements changed and staffing levels in all residences increased. Genesis moved to its present site, increasing its size to house eleven residents and plans began for another group home in Hudson Falls. In 1987 a new residence, Pearl Street, opened its doors providing housing for 14 residents.
In 1988, the Community Services Board of Warren and Washington counties asked the Agency to consider developing and operating an outpatient mental health service that could provide more accessible outpatient services for adults, children, and families in the two counties. In the Spring of 1989, Caleo Counseling Services began and quickly arrived at a position of having more customers than it could serve. Today, Caleo operates satellite clinics in addition to the original Hudson Falls clinic site.
In 1992, facing an increasingly complex service and regulatory environment, the Agency developed a “Strategic Plan” and a process for continued planning the future. Toward the end of that year plans began for a Supported Apartment Program, which would provide relatively independent living with formal case management services. This program now serves over 28 people.
In the mid-90’s, the Agency worked with several consumers to develop peer run services. A group called “Consumer Voices” began and in 1998 became incorporated with its own Board of Directors under the new name Voices of the Heart (VOH).
Today VOH is an independent agency which operates a respite apartment, social programs, support groups and training for people receiving services for psychiatric illnesses.
In 1998 two new case management program concepts began: a Crisis Outreach Program providing case management for children and adolescents and the Dual Recovery Program for people with combined mental illness and chemical dependence disorders. In 1999, after being awarded a grant from both the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Dual Recovery further expanded.
In keeping with the Agency’s mission of promoting mental health advocacy and education, a group to fight stigma was formed in 2000 following the release of the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health. This group soon became known as the Coalition for the Advancement of Mental Health (COFAMH). The group is made up of local mental health service providers and stakeholders.
Facilitated by the Agency’s then Development Director, this group has provided numerous trainings, public forums, conferences and education materials for our community. COFAMH meets monthly and is open to anyone interested in mental health education.
With the goal of consolidating and improving service facilities WWAMH embarked on its first ever Capital Campaign to raise funds for the Maple Street project. An abandoned factory and surrounding property at 230 Maple Street in Glens Falls were purchased with the plan of reconstructing the factory to house our psycho-social club, case management offices and the Office of Community Services.
In January 2004 the new facility opened its doors not only to an improved site but to a new collaboration among consumers, staff and programs. This site has the capability of expansion and development in the future.
In keeping with WWAMH’s philosophy of collaboration, a Housing Coalition was formed in 2004. Facilitated by the Dual Recovery Coordinator, the coalition’s focus is on housing for the homeless and low income population. This group has been influential in helping to apply and receive housing funds and Shelter Plus Care housing subsidies through HUD and administered through the Office of Community Services are now available to serve homeless individuals with mental illness.
A long needed housing initiative began in 2005 to develop a single site, permanent apartment program serving people with mental illness and co-occurring disorders. In 2009 the Housing First program opened with 18 apartments along with congregate and office space. This project was made possible through the Homeless Housing Assistance Program and is located next the Agency’s Administrative building in Hudson Falls.
In simple terms, mental health can be defined as how one thinks, feels and acts throughout life. Emotional, behavioral and psychiatric disturbances can be defined as thinking, feeling and acting in ways that are often hurtful to self or others and cannot be controlled.
Although finding effective solutions is often complex, the need to improve our community’s mental health is fundamental to all aspects of our community’s well-being.
New initiatives will continue….
As treatment and prevention research and knowledge increase.
As society becomes more educated about, and accepting of, mental illness.
As cultural practices and beliefs no longer created debilitating barriers to caregivers and receivers.
As funding reflects the importance of our nation’s mental health.
WWAMH will continue its mission to help put the pieces in place by focusing on programs and services that meet our community’s mental health needs.