POINT PLEASANT — A local provider of behavioral health services, the Prestera Center recently celebrated their 45th year of operation and is working to expand their services to more customers.
The origins of this organization date back to 1960’s, when most mental health care in West Virginia was provided by inpatient “lunatic asylums.” The Community Mental Health Act, which passed in 1963 under President John F. Kennedy, guaranteed access to mental health care programs for all Americans. As a result of this ruling, mental health clinics began to develop and apply for federal grants in order to provide this service to all.
The Prestera Center, then called the Southwestern Comprehensive Mental Health Center, began serving Mason County, as well as serving Cabell, Lincoln, and Wayne Counties in 1967. Serving as the first president of the organization was Michael R. Prestera until his death in 1970. It was reported that Prestera organized a campaign which moved this center from the bottom of the list of priorities near the top of the list for the state regarding federal construction grants. In April of 1981, the board of directors amended the name of the organization to the Prestera Center for Mental Health Services, Inc., to honor Prestera.
Perhaps one reason the Prestera Center has been able to stay around for 45 years is a commitment to their customers. Being a non-profit organization, the Prestera Center depends on funding from federal, state, and local tax funds and grants, among other sources. Kim Miller, Director of Corporate Development for the Prestera Center, stated the Prestera Center has faced some hard times in the past as far as finances go, but they’ve been able to press on.
“We’re good stewards of the funding we receive,” Miller said. Miller continued, stating with an emphasis on serving their clients, under the idea that if the customer’s needs are fulfilled, the funding will come along. Miller also discussed the Prestera Foundation, which was reported as a separate non-profit entity which consistently fundraising for the organization and its programs.
The local branch of Prestera is located at 715 Main Street in Point Pleasant. Although Prestera has been serving customers since 1967, Miller was unsure of the date when the Point Pleasant Branch opened. Miller did say the branch had moved several times, but has been in its current location since 1986.
Going along with their commitment to customers, Miller stated that no client is turned away simply because they cannot pay for their treatment. Miller discussed a person who may be suffering from some kind of addiction, and treatment can be very expensive in other places, and it is not right for the family to have to pay. If the person is not able to pay, Miller said they use the fundraising resources to cover the bills.
“It’s a big service to the community,” Miller said. “In this society people have more and more stress.” Miller continued, saying there are those who are suffering from mental health issues, and substance abuse is on the rise.
“Prestera is there to provide services in the community and to help people,” Miller said.
Miller also discussed a stigma that surrounds the idea of mental health centers. Miller said many people think when they seek this kind of help that the counselor will be very authoritative and pushy. Miller continued, stating those working with Prestera are not like that and are there to help people uncover their own solutions to their own problems.
“I would encourage anybody that wants to feel better to give us a chance,” Miller said. Miller also stated the most used service in Mason County would probably be outpatient counseling.
As of today, there are 53 Prestera locations across eight counties, which reportedly makes it the largest mental health and addictions services provider in the State of West Virginia. It was also reported that Prestera annually serves 19,000 adults, children and families each year and is one of the state’s top employers with 850 employees.
“Prestera is always expanding and always looking at new needs in the community and how we can meet those needs,” Miller said.
For more information on Prestera and the services offered, visit www.prestera.org, or call the Point Pleasant office at 304-675-2361.