WANT TO GO?
A Magical Evening: A Benefit for Prestera
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Charleston Marriott Town Center
INFO: Call Kim Miller at 304-525-7851, ex. 1505
CHARLESTON, W.Va. --Ten years ago, Shawnee Hills, one of West Virginia's largest mental and behavioral health service providers, unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy.
The Prestera Center for Mental Health Services was one of several groups that went through a hectic time when it took over treatment services for Shawnee Hills clients.
On Saturday, the Prestera Center at 511 Morris St. will host a benefit reception and dinner to honor the 10-year anniversary of when the community mental health center picked up where Shawnee Hills left off.
When Shawnee Hills filed for bankruptcy on May 1, 2002, it owed about $13 million to hundreds of creditors. Eleven different agencies came in and took part of Shawnee Hills' business; Prestera Center took over the mental health and substance abuse treatment services.
Prestera also hired more than 200 Shawnee Hills' employees so that its clients "wouldn't be left without care," Prestera CEO Bob Hansen said this week.
"We feel like it's kind of a milestone for us. It's been 10 years and it wasn't easy," Hansen said. "We feel that we did a pretty credible job of providing seamless services for consumers. The 10 years have gone by in a snap of a finger. It seems like just yesterday we were working on this but we did it so that people wouldn't fall through the cracks."
Huntington-based Prestera Center has slowly tried to build a presence in Kanawha County, Hansen said.
When Prestera -- which already served Cabell, Lincoln, Mason and Wayne counties -- took over Shawnee Hills' mental health services in 2002, it added Kanawha, Clay, Boone and Putnam counties, making it the largest mental health and addiction services provider in West Virginia.
The nonprofit center served 19,000 people last year in its 53 locations, said Kim Miller, director of corporate development for Prestera.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources asked Prestera to step in and provide mental health and substance abuse services when Shawnee Hill filed for bankruptcy, Miller said. If it didn't, then some of Shawnee Hills' 10,000 clients would go without those services, she said.
"There are a lot of people for whom the services -- such as staff providing supervision and support and monitoring - are critical and I don't think they could survive in the community -- or at all -- without some kind of behavioral health services," Miller said. "There have been tens of thousands of people in the Charleston area who have confidentially used these services. Since Prestera came in 10 years ago, we've grown the services we can provide."
Prestera recently expanded its medication-assisted addiction treatment for opiates in Boone County -- a move necessary to cater to the growing problem in the state, Hansen said. Ten years ago Prestera saw more people with alcohol addiction issues but today it's more prescription drug abuse, he said.
"The biggest issue that has changed in mental health services is more in the range of addiction. There are more younger people today addicted to opiates and the challenge is to keep up with the demand," Hansen said.
While DHHR spokesman John Law said he thinks mental health services in the state have improved in the last 10 years, he does think there could still be some improvement.
Law said Prestera has done a good job of taking over Shawnee Hills' mental health services and expanding programs.
"Prestera has had the reputation of being a leader in the community mental health services and implementing the services people need to get them back to the community," Law said. "When it became evident that [Shawnee Hills] could no longer provide services for our clients, [Prestera] stepped up to the plate and took over."
Formed in 1967, Prestera was one of 14 comprehensive (serves clients with mental illnesses, mental retardation and development disabilities) mental health centers created in the state after President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Centers Act in 1963. The dissolution of Shawnee Hills reduced that number to 13 centers.
"A Magical Evening" is May 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Charleston Marriott Town Center, 200 Lee St. Mentalist Keith Matheny will perform with live music by The Bob Thompson Unit. To purchase $50 tickets contact Miller at 304-525-7851 ex. 1505 or visit prestera.org.
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.