Commemorating decades of working to strengthen central Illinois.
As nonprofit organizations that specialize in serving people, we help strengthen communities, neighborhoods and families—and we are woven into the very fabric of our society. We are three central Illinois human service agencies with milestone anniversaries: The Center for Prevention of Abuse and Human Service Center, each 40 years old in 2016, and the Hult Center for Healthy Living, which celebrated 25 years last year. With 105 cumulative years of service, we recognize the field of social innovation has evolved, and we face head-on what challenges and hopes for the future remain at the forefront.
The questions that arise from 105 cumulative years serving this community are: What have we contributed, and what have we learned to be efficient and effective in what we do?
Human Service Center (HSC)
Forty years ago, four community organizations—the Comprehensive Mental Health Board of Central Illinois, the Peoria Mental Health Clinic, the Stonehedge Foundation and the Peoria Area Council on Alcoholism—joined together to “provide a program of mental health and substance abuse services which is comprehensive in scope, fully acceptable to those needing these services, integrating with other social and health care systems, and responsive to the current and changing needs primarily of the citizens who live and/or work in Peoria County, Illinois.”
Not only is that a mouthful to say, it was a progressive idea to conceptualize: four distinct organizations with four very different cultures, operating in isolation, and frequently serving the same population. A $1 million federal grant was the impetus to join together to develop a more efficient and effective organization for the Peoria community.
While there have been years of extreme financial challenge, the organization created the opportunity to grow into a continuum of mental health and substance abuse treatment services from seven outpatient and residential sites in Peoria County. Through government and private contracts, HSC has been managed in a business healthcare model, in which payment is received for the services provided.
From the beginning, the goal has been to help anyone who comes to our door seeking assistance for behavioral health services. HSC has been fortunate during these 40 years in developing credibility to attract a variety of revenue sources which support traditional and evidence-based services as they have surfaced from research in the field. The current challenges in prioritization—a focus of many forms of government funding—requires that we never become complacent with the quality and efficiency of services that exist at any point in time.
Like many human service providers, HSC has learned to form relationships with other service providers who are experts in their field and can contribute to the overall well-being of those seeking our assistance. Many people seek assistance with needs beyond our current expertise, and experience has taught us that for people to improve, all of the psycho-social-spiritual basic needs must be addressed. We can’t do it alone, and partnering with other providers makes the most sense for the consumer, HSC and the community health system.
As we once stood as a silo of services—focused only on what we do best, and not addressing the other critical aspects of an individual’s life—no one was benefiting. It is these evolving community relationships that strengthen the healthcare system in our community. As we celebrate 40 years as part of the Peoria community, HSC congratulates our colleagues who have reached similar milestone anniversaries.
The Center for Prevention of Abuse
It is a landmark year for The Center for Prevention of Abuse. In 1976, a local rape crisis hotline was created by volunteers. Forty years later, we have evolved into a key member of central Illinois’ human-service structure, becoming the only organization in the entire state with as many services of its kind under one umbrella.
The Center has grown to include 105 team members serving 5,000 clients per year, helping all who ask to live free from violence and abuse. We have collaborated and consolidated into a top-quality service provider, a model of efficiency and fiscal responsibility.
Over the last four decades, we have continued to add programs to meet the needs of our clients. In 1977, domestic violence services were added, an emergency shelter was established at the YWCA, and the agency got its first name: Tri-County WomenStrength. During the next decade, we added services to help seniors experiencing abuse, an order of protection office was created, and an innovative women’s shelter was constructed at our current location in Peoria—one of just four in the country when it was built. Eventually, we also entered into an agreement with a shelter in Pekin, the Carol House of Hope.
Over time, we became The Center for Prevention of Abuse. We now have a presence in six facilities throughout Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties. Our senior services program was renamed Adult Protective Services, and now also serves adults living with a disability who are victims of abuse in the Tri-County Area, plus Fulton, Marshall and Stark counties. Last year, our Prevention Education department taught 30,000 children about building healthy relationships, keeping their bodies safe, non-violent conflict resolution and bullying prevention.
It has been rewarding over the last 40 years to help build safe and peaceful communities. Past and current leaders of The Center have made every effort to use funding in sensible and resourceful ways to help our clients get the services they need. We want to honor those who have given so generously by being fiscally accountable.
Anniversaries like this are not only important because they let us take measure of the distance we’ve traveled; they also allow us to pause and assess the direction we are headed. As we reflect on our storied and successful past, we look forward to additional opportunities to advance, grow and become even more inclusive, helping all those who need peace and The Center’s good care.
Hult Center for Healthy Living
Last October, the Hult Center for Healthy Living celebrated 25 years of providing quality health education to Peoria and the surrounding communities. The Hult Center was created with the vision of providing health education to young children and youth as a way to supplement the local school system in teaching children how to make healthy choices.
In its early days, the primary target population was preschool through high school. Health education programs included oral health, drugs and alcohol, and “my special body,” which teaches young students about the five senses of hearing, smelling, touching, taste and sight. It also introduces the basic functions of the heart while allowing the children to listen to heartbeats.
The Hult Center was modeled after a similar center in Fort Wayne, Indiana called the Lilly Center. The crown jewel of this learning center was the multiple theater-style classrooms that provided visual and hands-on equipment to encourage children to use all of their senses while learning a health topic. Each topic is research-based and constructed using evidence-based curriculums.
Many years passed before Hult added other areas of health education. To demonstrate its commitment to community partnerships, Hult welcomed the merger of two longstanding community agencies: the Cancer Center for Healthy Living in 2011, and the Mental Health Association of Illinois Valley in 2013. Through these acquisitions, the mission of these agencies continues. Today, the Hult Center for Healthy Living is focused into four pillars of health education:
- Youth health education;
- Cancer programs, including behavioral health and diet/nutrition counseling offered to those with a cancer diagnosis and their families. This area also encompasses classes which provide massage, yoga, meditation, aqua therapy and reflexology to survivors of a cancer diagnosis and their caregivers;
- Behavioral health programs that serve across all four pillars, providing programs to youth in Peoria Public Schools District 150 and other surrounding school districts, working in partnership with other community-based agencies; and
- Encore programs, which target ages 50+, teaching adults how to live productive, healthier lives as they navigate from parenting to the sandwich generation and beyond.
Now more than 25 years old, the Hult Center for Healthy Living continues “empowering people to live healthier lives.”
Embracing the Future
Over time, each of our agencies has embraced new ideas, trends and innovations and persevered to bring about important outcomes and impact. We realize that we are equally the architects and the beneficiaries of our past, as well as what lies ahead. We recognize the need to maximize resources, offer innovative ideas and explore non-traditional partnerships. At the same time, we are wholly invested in the well-being of people. We look forward to providing ongoing support and creating a positive environment in which each of our citizens can grow and thrive. iBi
Mike Kennedy is President and CEO of the Human Service Center; Carol Merna is Executive Director of The Center for Prevention of Abuse; and Andrea Parker is Executive Director of the Hult Center for Healthy Living.