History of Catawba Valley Healthcare
As Catawba Valley Healthcare celebrates its 17th Anniversary of service in 2022, our organization looks back at our history, expresses gratitude to our retiring CEO, John Waters, and looks forward to our continued goals and aspirations to serve our patients and community to the best of our ability.
Our evolution from Catawba Valley Behavioral Health (CVBH) to Catawba Valley Healthcare (CVH) had its beginning back in 1999 when The Mental Health Fund, Inc. was launched as an organization to raise funds and awareness for services provided by Mental Health Services of Catawba County. A Board was established and by-laws were developed to raise funds through multiple means – from grants to fund-raising events. At that time, the Mental Health Fund, Inc. consisted of one part-time employee who assisted the Board in promoting awareness of mental health and addressing the harmful stigma around mental health issues.
North Carolina Divests Services and Catawba Valley Behavior Health is Formed
In 2003-2004, the State of NC passed legislation to divest mental health services from governmental entities and to privatize these services through for-profit and non-profit (established or newly launched) organizations. At the time of the divestiture, Mental Health Services of Catawba County provided services for Mental Health (MH), Intellectual Developmental Disabilities (IDD), and Substance use for children, youth, and adults. Services were primarily offered in Catawba County.
Divestiture in Catawba County was launched with the spin-off of Substance use services to local providers for adults and youth. Child MH services were divested to Catawba County Social Services as Family N.E.T. (Nurturing, Education, and Treatment).
The direct service provision and oversight for Adult MH and IDD were split into Partners Behavioral Health Local Managing Entity and Catawba Valley Behavioral Healthcare (formerly, the Mental Health Fund, Inc.) which became the provider of direct services. At the time of CVBH’s inception on January 1, 2005, our organization had approximately 130 staff. CVBH’s name was chosen with the expectation that it would provide services across multiple counties.
Catawba Valley Healthcare Is a Safety Net for Many
As CVBH, we became a safety net for those with adult MH and IDD needs in our community. As CVH, we continue to serve those with and without insurance; those dealing with social and economic challenges; those who are incarcerated; those re-entering their community, and those in need of ongoing mental health support.
CVBH remained in the same location for the next 5 years which was the previous location of Mental Health Services of Catawba County. This provided continuity for those we served.
The initial Board of CVBH was a combination of prior members of The Mental Health Fund, Inc. and new members, including several representatives from Catawba County government. The Board hired its first CEO, who assisted in launching CVBH as a non-profit service provider. Catawba County government provided invaluable assistance in helping CVBH with administrative systems as it worked on developing its own.
Catawba Valley Behavioral Health Offers a Wide Range of Services
At the time of its launch, CVBH offered medication management, psychiatric treatment, an Assertive Community Treatment Team, Community Support Team, Residential apartments, and group homes for MH and IDD, as well as day programs for IDD (Lifeskills) and MH (Connections). Connections, our clubhouse for those with MH is recognized as an International Clubhouse and provides services that include supporting employment, a work-ordered day, and opportunities for recreation and work. Lifeskills is a special place for adults with intellectual developmental disabilities offering participants the opportunity to partake in activities and the opportunity for building and enhancing relationships. The CVBH Board and Leadership strongly advocated for the agency to be a comprehensive provider of services to ensure those in the most need had a home with services.
Strong Leadership Leads to Growth and Stability
After 6 months, the initial CEO of CVBH resigned, and a new search was conducted. John M. Waters, LCSW, was hired, and he has steadily steered the organization through good and challenging times. Mr. Waters provided a steady hand and encouraged strong staff input into the organization. John is always willing to listen to the staff and consider their input on how to make CVH stronger. Mr. Waters will retire on August 1, 2022.
As a non-profit agency, CVBH pursued and obtained additional grant funding to assist in providing services. CVBH was the recipient of grants from Sisters of Mercy, Kate B. Reynolds Foundation, George Foundation, Carpenter Foundation, The Duke Endowment, as well as numerous other foundations and organizations.
As opportunities for needed assistance were presented, the county approached CVBH to offer more services, including our Mobile Crisis management which helps connect people to resources for inpatient and outpatient services during times of crisis.
Catawba Valley Behavioral Health Relocates
In 2009, Catawba County requested that CVBH find another location for services. The Board and staff of CVBH conducted a search for both our outpatient services and administrative offices that would be convenient for our consumers. While we were not able to locate one facility that would house all the services offered, we were able to obtain two separate buildings in downtown Hickory. The two facilities were renovated, and we were able to move with limited disruption of services. Moving to downtown Hickory allowed CVBH to expand services and become a part of a network of services. With community support and solid financial management, we were able to pay off the mortgages on both buildings in just 12 years.
Primary Care Services is added with an Integrated Approach
The next major development of CVH’s services was the addition of Primary Care. CVBH had always been a pioneer in integrated care, also known as whole-person care. The decision to add a primary care clinic and change our name to Catawba Valley Healthcare was driven in large part by the fact that individuals with mental health issues die at an earlier age than those without mental illness – often because their primary care needs are not met at the level they should be. With the addition of primary care services being housed in the same location as our psychiatric care services, coordinated care between our providers has become more possible. Likewise, all CVH providers use the same electronic health system making integration of care easier. CVH has a long history of partnering with Catawba Valley Medical Center and the Duke Endowment to provide funding for our primary care program, allowing those with and without insurance to receive CVH services.
Peer Support Plays a Critical Role Across Many Services
Years ago, CVBH launched a separate peer support program that today includes ACT, Mobile Crisis, Hospital Discharge, and LEAD. Peer Support is an integral part of CVH, pairing individuals who are successfully navigating mental health and/or substance use issues with those who are currently in need of support.
As the State of North Carolina continued to privatize services, it became more noticeable that many individuals in need of mental health and substance use services were also involved in the justice system. As CVBH, our Jail Services provided assessment and substance use groups in the Catawba and Burke county jails before expanding to Lincoln County. Today, our jail services include a pre-trial diversion program as well as a re-entry program thanks to grant funding from the State of North Carolina. We also continue to support treatment versus incarceration for crimes related to mental health/substance use.
The LEAD Program Expands to Include Burke County
Initially, as CVBH, we launched the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program with a focus on providing support to the community in Catawba County. The LEAD Case Manager’s job is to provide case management to individuals referred by the local law enforcement. These are individuals who may have been trespassing, loitering, or other crimes, who would benefit from connecting with mental health/substance use services versus incarceration.
Once referred to LEAD, the Case Manager coordinates an assessment and provides services as requested, including help with housing, food, employment, and other needs. The LEAD program has expanded and now includes Burke County.
Hospital Discharge Services Offers Critical Assistance
Another important ongoing initiative is our Hospital Discharge services in partnership with the Partners Health Management and Catawba Valley Medical Center. This program works with individuals who have been hospitalized for mental health/substance use. Upon discharge, our team works to coordinate discharge appointments within 7 days by providing assistance with social determinates of health needs that may have otherwise prevented the critical follow-up appointment with the community provider.
Federal Grant Supports Justice-Involved Individuals
CVH received a Federal grant to provide more services to those involved in the justice system. This grant helps us continue offering LEAD and our Transitional Housing program. The Transitional Housing Program offers those leaving jail the opportunity for 90 days to focus on integrating back into society through assistance with treatment, employment, and other adjustment needs. This program has a unique “Recovery First” perspective, enabling participants an opportunity to focus on building their foundation knowing they have a safe place to live.
Catawba Valley Behavioral Health Changes its Name to Fight Stigma
When CVBH changed its name to Catawba Valley Healthcare (CVH), we did so to better capture the concept of whole-person care. CVH continues to be the safety net for those adults with MH or IDD in need. The CVH Board and staff are committed to meeting the needs of the community in a collaborative manner.
While this written history has not fully noted all CVH’s partnerships, it is important to note that without the support and partnership of county government, Managed Care Organizations, funding sources, local human services organizations, and others, Catawba Valley Healthcare would not be able to provide all the services it does.
CVH is moving forward with its current service offerings – from outpatient treatment and day programs to residential programs that meet the community’s needs. We are also preparing our path to include the addition of Care Management Services – a key factor in providing necessary care to those with severe mental illness.
Leadership Baton is Passed
Our current CEO, John Waters, has provided strong and trusted leadership. Along with our dedicated Board and staff, John has steered CVH through both rough and smooth waters, and we are grateful for his many contributions. On August 1, 2022, John will be passing the baton to Timothy Lentz, LCSW. Tim has been with CVH since its beginning and has played a vital leadership role as we have expanded our services and moved more directly toward whole-person health. As CEO, Tim will work closely with our Board and staff to ensure CVH continues to serve, grow, and thrive.
All of us at Catawba Valley Healthcare are proud of where we have been and excited about what our future holds as we continue to support the community we love.
–Gail A. Henson, Ed.S.
Administrative Support/Development Director
Catawba Valley Healthcare continues to pursue additional opportunities to provide high-quality services. CVH is proud to be nationally accredited by CARF, demonstrating our mission to provide high-quality, evidence-based services and continually improve our agency.