A group of supportive community members formed the Ross County Mental Health Association in 1959. This group gathered information, wrote press releases, and advocated for a community mental health agency for outpatient counseling and psychiatric services. A steering committee was organized for the purpose to advocate for a mental health center in Chillicothe. On May 18, 1965, Dr. Noel Williams, Miss Martha E. Cottrill, and Mr. Robert L. Brubaker filed Articles of Incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to create the “Paint Valley Guidance Center” as a non-profit organization. This remained the name of the center until the SPVMHC Board of Trustees voted to change the name to the Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center on October 14, 1976.
After the Mental Health legislation authorized states to institute “648 Boards” to fund agencies, the first agency site was located on Paint Street in Chillicothe beginning in 1966. The first 2 employees of the Paint Valley Guidance Center were a psychiatrist, Dr. Parent, and a receptionist, Mrs. Margaret Knauerhase. The Board of Trustees was also formed in 1966 from volunteers from each of the 5 county mental health associations. In 1967, a psychologist, Dr. Mark Brown, a Social Worker, Miss Margaret Kelly, and a secretary, Mrs. Olive Wiseman were added. In 1969, the Paint Valley Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board was organized in compliance with House Bill 648. The 648 Board overseer and Treasurer was Miss Martha E. Cottrill.
From 1972 until 1975, the Ross County Health Planning Council identified mental health services as a priority need. A subcommittee of 20 local citizens, led by the association President, Charlye Maloney, and Secretary/Treasurer, Mrs. Rosemary Houf, completed their report in 1975 and recommended supporting the expansion of mental health services with a one-mill levy that would draw additional state per capita funds to support the expansion of service locations. The Ross County Mental Health Association was reactivated to support the levy and the first levy passed in November 1975 when other levies were failing.
The central core of the Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center moved a total of 4 times. From their 39 South Paint Street location, the center moved to a building known around Chillicothe to “the former TB Sanatorium” located at the top of Carlisle Hill and Pohlman Road. Later, the center moved to 425 Chestnut Street in Chillicothe. In 1978, when the federal government supported moving funds from state hospitals to pay for more outpatient psychiatric and counseling services during the “deinstitutionalization movement,” the SPVMHC administration planned on expanding outpatient counseling clinics at each of the county seats in Ross, Pickaway, Pike, Fayette, and Highland counties. County Commissioners were approached in those counties for support for offices in their counties. Pike County was the first satellite office to open in 1976.
In November 1976 the Substance Abuse Program was formed in Ross County. Mike Bethel was the Director and Rick Barnes and Rick Williams were the two workers. The awareness of mental health concepts and needs were growing. The 648 Catchment Planning Authority submitted the “Planning Application” to enable the designing of comprehensive services to begin the expansion process. In 1977, the agency began growing by offering a variety of services, mental health, drug treatment, education, and prevention services. A Crisis Center Director, Dr. James R. Hagen, was hired to oversee the Crisis Center operations for all five counties that was located at the 425 Chestnut Street location. In 1978, the number of employees grew due to the SPVMHC receiving notification of the Initial Operations Grant by the National Institute of Mental Health. Due to the rapid growth, the agency decided to become decentralized and began hiring outpatient clinic directors. The Executive Director then was Perry Alexander, who oversaw the employees who made up “Central Administration.” As a result of the levy, state, and most importantly, federal funds, the SPVMHC, a nonprofit, comprehensive mental health center, grew to 130 professional and support personnel who were providing services to approximately 1,500 clients in January 1980. The first socialization, day treatment, and therapy groups were offered and each clinic added outpatient therapists, case managers, supervisors, and psychiatrists who rotated among the clinics.
SPVMHC opened two brand new buildings for outpatient clinics in Pike and Fayette counties in 1981 after being located in other rented offices since 1976. Land was also purchased in Highland and Pickaway counties for the construction of the last two clinics. Due to support of the Ross County Commissioners, the Ross County Clinic, located at its current site at 4449 SR 159, was opened on June 29, 1982 with the Ribbon Cutting ceremony held on September 19, 1982. The clinic operated at the ground floor with the SPVMHC Central Administration located on the second floor.
SPVMHC administration staff recognized the need to advocate for a local psychiatric inpatient unit. Three psychiatrists (Dr. Stuart Oppenheimer, Dr. Kancherla Rao, and Dr. Forouz Allahverdi) worked with Adena Medical Center staff for a 15 bed inpatient psychiatric unit named 1-A. This unit was opened on May 23, 1983. The 1-A Director was Jacklyn Byers, an SPVMHC employee. This collaboration ceased after its initial 3 years as Adena took over the 1-A administration.
During the 1980s, an additional focus on establishing group homes began as a way to bring clients back to the community instead of their staying at state hospitals. In addition to group homes, transition services was begun to assist client with daily living activities and establishing independent living skills. The Floyd Simantel Clinic was established to help transition clients from psychiatric hospitals to a secure living situation. This complex has been expanded during the past twenty years to include case management, group therapies, and daily living assistance services. The single residence now has expanded to include Friendship Hall, a male bed residence home with 6 men. There is also a two bed Duplex housing complex that SPVMHC staff assist with case management services that is located on Mulberry Street in Chillicothe.
There were other treatment endeavors that SPVMHC have participated in and have changed due to the client needs. The second residential facility, first started as a treatment center for adolescents, then male clients with Substance Use Disorders in Greenfield, Ohio, is the current location of Lynn Goff house. This location serves up to 12 female clients in recovery from Opioid Use Disorder.
The SPVMHC administration, headed by Dr. Gary Kreuchauf, Executive Director, purchased a building to expand its vans and established a Transportation Company under a separate LLC. This Transportation Company was sold in spring 2019. Some of the former vans were dispersed among the clinics to support the group and residential transportation client needs.
There have been many changes to SPVMHC in the 2010 decade. First, there was an expansion of the Martha Cottrill Clinic (Ross County) in 2014 due to the initiation of a Primary Care Center. The Martha Cottrill Clinic also houses a pharmacy, Genoa Pharmacy, to provide access for medication needs. During that building expansion to create rooms for Primary Care, the Central Administration added an upper floor expansion that now is the offices for the Information Technology offices and the Board of Trustee/Central Administration meeting room. The Primary Care LLC was closed during the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
The 2017 to 2019 SPVMHC history includes many changes. After the state of Ohio “Behavioral Healthcare Redesign” occurred, many employees left the agency. The clinical staff numbers dropped to 57 by mid 2018. From November 2018 to June 2019, the clinical staff has increased to accommodate the increased client and community needs for care with the mental health and substance use disorder challenges. Because of the need for male bed alcohol and other drug treatment issues in our catchment area, the Board of Trustees approved a third residential treatment center acquisition. An existing building was purchased and internally reconstructed for a 36-bed residential facility. This center was named The Rulon Center to honor a past Board of Trustees President, Marsha Jo Rulon. She still is a Board member with 36 years of Board membership. The Rulon Center held its Open House and dedication in February 2019. In March 2019, Dr. J Paul Roberts was hired as a Board-Certified adult psychiatrist who works in Pike County and the Martha Cottrill Clinic. He joined Dr. Robin Norman is an adult and child psychiatrist who has worked at SPVMHC for 17 years and now has the title of Children’s Psychiatric Medical Director. She sees clients in Pickaway, Fayette, Highland and Ross counties. Dr. Norman supervises a Nurse Practitioner, Lisa Wolffe. The third psychiatrist, Dr. Joju Variath, has worked off and on for SPVMHC for 20 years. He works in Ross and Pike counties and primarily treats children. He is a Board-Certified adult and child psychiatrist. The current Executive Director, Dr. Barbara Mahaffey, began working again at SPVMHC on November 15, 2018. She had previously worked at SPVMHC from 1978 to 1993 and began work as a case manager. The person who has the longest employment record at SPVMHC is Lynn Albright; she has 45 years of continuous service and works in Central Administration.