Copper Country Community Mental Health

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 Copper Country Mental Health Timeline

The Primeval Past

William G. Rice (1870-1941) and Isabel P. Rice (1877-1957) are community members devoted to community service. They marry in Chicago and move to Houghton in 1897. They particularly help children with physical handicaps or who came from homes struck by illness, sorrow or need.

1895: Newberry Regional Hospital opens as the U.P. Asylum for the Insane and at one point employs over 300 people. It closes in 1992.

1944: The Upper Peninsula Child Guidance Clinic opens in Marquette, run by a Board of Directors made up of citizens from each of the U.P.’s 15 counties. Branches were formed in several other U.P. cities.

The treatment philosophy of the Child Guidance movement includes:

  1. The belief that child suffering and poor outcomes in adulthood can be avoided by early intervention and prevention. Maladjustment is not genetically determined.
  2. Viewing the child within the context of family, peers, and school vs. an individual with a problem to be fixed.
  3. Stressing the need for adult involvement (e.g., parents and teachers) in order to help children.
  4. Educating the entire community about the importance of good mental hygiene, for example, how to manage strong emotions.
  5. A team treatment approach (psychiatrist, psychologist, and social worker).
  6. Academic achievement (e.g., reading) is positively related to social adjustment.
  • 1945: The Michigan Department of Mental Health is formed by the Michigan legislature. Later renamed the Department of Health and Human Services, by 2022 they have 14,000 employees.

Chapter 1: Who will get the next Child Guidance Center Branch?

1955: The Department of Mental Health announces that another branch of the U.P. Child Guidance Clinic will be authorized, and there is strong competition with Escanaba to get it established in the Houghton area. In February, Houghton Probate Judge Joseph M. Donnelly sends out an appeal to leaders in the area, to which he received an overwhelmingly positive response. Eighty-three leaders from the townships and schools in our four-county area meet on March 9, 1955, to discuss having a local branch. Twenty-seven townships, 20 school districts, and 91 civic, social, and religious societies enthusiastically support the effort and pledge financial support, convincing the Department of Mental Health to choose Houghton County for the next branch site.

January 11, 1956: The Copper Country Branch of the U.P. Child Guidance Clinic opens at St. Joseph Hospital in Hancock. Elizabeth D. Kane, MD, psychiatrist; Howard Lamb, psychiatric social worker; and Soine A. Torma, psychiatric social worker provide service at the clinic on a part-time schedule. Aileen Poynter is the secretary from January 1956 until her retirement in January 1975. From 1956-1962, 491 children are seen. Referrals come largely from schools and parents, but also from the courts and other agencies.

Chapter 2: The need for a new building

December 1961: The Sisters of St. Joseph Hospital let the clinic know that they will need their space back by June 1962. Judge Donnelly leads the effort to locate an office space suitable for the clinic, but with no success.

Early 1962: The building that was the former tuberculosis sanitorium on Canal Rd. in Houghton is selected as an option. It is structurally sound but needs renovations and landscaping to make it a suitable clinic space. Unable to raise the necessary funds and in despair, Judge Donnelly approaches his friend John Rice with the idea of funding the project and dedicating it to the memory of his parents. Within minutes of hearing the idea, Mr. Rice writes a check to cover all expenses.

June 10, 1962: Dedication of the Rice Memorial Child Guidance Clinic to the memory of William G. and Isabel P. Rice. The public is invited to this event and more than 300 attend.

December 28, 1962: The Rice Memorial Clinic Foundation is chartered as a corporation. The original intent of the RMCF is to use the income from private donations to maintain the Rice Memorial Clinic and someday provide additional services. Today, the mission of the Foundation is to provide financial support for the provision of mental health services and other related mental health/physically handicapped needs in the four-county area.

April 29, 1963: Michigan Governor, George Romney, signs Act 54 of the Public Acts of 1963, which encourages community mental health programs and allows counties to create Community Mental Health boards. A major intention is to serve people with severe mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in the community, rather than in state psychiatric hospitals.

October 31, 1963: A few weeks before he is assassinated, John F. Kennedy signs the Community Mental Health Act, designed to move people from institutions to community living.

Chapter 3: The birth and early growth of Copper Country Mental Health

December 3, 1963: Over 50 people meet at the Houghton County Courthouse, representing the Child Guidance Clinic, Probate Court, the Copper Country Health and Welfare Council, the Health Department, and interested citizens. An eight-person Selecting Committee is formed by the Chairs of the Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon Boards of County Commissioners. The purpose of this Committee is to select a 12-person four county CMH Board.

December 20, 1963: A four-county Community Mental Health Services Board is formed. After discussion of five possible names, we adopt the name Copper Country Mental Health on January 21, 1964, at our first board meeting. The board works to employ a psychiatrist and upon arrival, Dr. Ivan LaCore is appointed as the first director of CCMH. Dr. Elizabeth Cane; Robert Drew, MSW; James O’Brien, MSW; Joanna Byers, Ph.D.; and Howard Lamb also provide services to adults and children.

A major focus of CCMH is reducing the number of admissions to Newberry Regional Hospital (NRH) and preventing recidivism by individuals that have been discharged. In 1964 Copper Country Mental Health committed 89 adults and 4 children to NRH; the following year, these were 49 and 2, respectively. We support children with severe developmental disabilities by establishing day treatment programs, which are taken over by the Copper Country Intermediate School District in July 1970.

In 1965, Michigan operates 41 psychiatric hospitals serving about 29,000 citizens. By 1991, 29 state hospitals serve 3,054 residents. In 2013, Michigan operates only five hospitals.

Chapter 4: Passage of Public Act 258

1974: Public Act 258 (The Mental Health Code) is recognized as one of the most progressive mental health statutes in the U.S. The Mental Health Code shifts the provision of mental health services from the State to Community Mental Health Centers. It is a challenge to provide 24/7 crisis services and other mandatory programs, but without enough funding. Dial Help staff are available to take calls after hours and call one of our clinical staff if needed. There are also questions on how to implement a system that will ensure that the rights of mental health service recipients are protected.

We recognize the need for community placement homes as an alternative to Newberry State Hospital, but it will be several years before we open our first group home.