In 1937, school administrators, teachers, clergymen, and welfare workers met to discuss the need for psychiatric consultation for children experiencing challenges at home and in school... The local chapter of the American Red Cross responded to their plea by allocating $55 per month of Red Cross funds for payment to a psychiatrist and appointed a committee to explore the possibility of securing services.
This meeting by a group of forward-thinking community members resulted in the creation of the Atchison Child Guidance Clinic. Now one of the oldest mental health providers in the State of Kansas, the center was the first in the state to be supported entirely by community funds.
Multiple agencies began organizing professionals and other volunteers to establish the clinic. Teachers and school administrators from private and public schools met with representatives of the clergy, welfare and health departments, and other citizens in order to screen requests for service and determine priority of referral.
The local school district provided space in the recently completed Central Grade School free of charge, physicians from the Atchison Medical Society provided complete free physical examinations for youth prior to appointments, and psychological services and testing was obtained through the school and staff psychologist of the Kansas Children's Receiving Home.
The Atchison County Welfare Department volunteered clerical staff, as well as a child welfare worker to prepare social background information on each child, and a Red Cross volunteer served as a receptionist at the monthly clinic. Various volunteers from the community provided transportation to the clinic, if needed.
Evening lectures were organized for the public in Central School's auditorium, attracting school personnel, clergy, and concerned citizens. The Atchison Child Guidance Clinic officially began providing services in 1938, under the direction of Dr. G. Leonard Harrington of Kansas City, Missouri. During the first three years of operation, 24 clinics were held and 43 individuals (one of whom was an adult) received services.
Over the years, the clinic grew steadily. In the 1940's, services were expanded to include adults and the name was changed to The Atchison County Guidance Clinic. As late as 1949, the Atchison County Guidance Clinic was one of only three Kansas communities to have a mental health clinic. In late 1963, Atchison joined forces with Leavenworth County and renamed the clinic the Northeast Kansas Guidance Clinic, governed by a 14-member board. By the early 1970's, Jefferson County was added and the Center became Northeast Kansas Mental Health and Guidance Center.
Over time, treatment for individuals with mental illness advanced as such illnesses were better-understood and psychotropic medications were more widely available. Many individuals once confined to institutions no longer needed such restrictive services. As a result, in 1984, community-based services for adults with more serious mental illness became available for the first time. By 1992, similar services for children and adolescents were offered. These services are now known as Community Support Services (for adults with severe and persistent mental illness) and Community Based Services (for youth with serious emotional disturbance.)
Today, known simply as The Guidance Center, the agency has grown from a progressive and “imaginative” monthly project staffed by volunteers to a threecounty community-mental health center employing over 100 individuals and serving 3,500 clients annually.
Services provided by the Center change lives enhance personal relationships, and improve our community. The Center is proud of its long history in northeast Kansas and looks forward to continuing our mission of promoting healthy communities.