A Vital Community Partner Who Is Clearly Moving in the Right Direction

Four Rivers Behavorial Health

Four Rivers Behavioral Health

In his inaugural address in 1945, Franklin Roosevelt commented that we must learn to be “citizens of the world, members of the human community.” Nothing could be closer to the truth than in this summer of 2005. As in many aspects of the human condition, time does not heal all wounds and many things change, yet remain the same. The regard we have for mental illness and substance abuse are two of those human conditions that still carry with them concrete stereotypes and preconceived ideas.
“I can see change in terms of how willing we are to talk about mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues,” says Allison Ogden, Chief Executive Officer of Paducah’s Four Rivers Behavioral Health. “Unfortunately, there has been less change in the perception that there is something personally inadequate about those who need assistance with these same conditions. One very positive thing is that many companies are now encouraging and assisting their employees to seek help through Employee Assistance Programs. We’d like to see even more of that. Hopefully, companies are beginning to realize that intervention can make the difference in keeping a good employee.”
The administrators and clinicians at Four Rivers Behavioral Health are making a difference every day in the lives of community members in western Kentucky. And even though Allison explains that Kentucky is one of the few states in the country to have a well-established system for community mental health centers, it ranks 44th in funding. “Our state has done a good job of setting up a comprehensive system to reach people in every county of Kentucky. But we need greater support for these facilities so that they can continue to meet the needs of the state’s citizens and to enable them to grow as well.”
Program growth and greater financial support for consumers with emotional, developmental and substance abuse problems is the pressing need, says Allison, for the future of these state-wide centers. Paducah’s behavioral health organization is now centrally located on Broadway in a newly renovated structure which not only gives the downtown community a new resident, it also gives the area’s behavioral health center a greater visibility and perhaps indirectly, a new outlook from the community at large. It also represents to Paducah Bank President Wally Bateman a testimony to Paducah’s downtown viability. “Four Rivers Behavioral Health is a wonderful addition to our community’s main street and still more evidence that the downtown economy is on the move,” he comments.
“There is no question that our new location has been a vital part of our mission to bring our services to people and to house them in a central structure rather than a variety of sites around the area,” Allison adds. “We’ve been a well-kept secret since 1966. Now in phase two of our renovation project, we hope to have all facets of our services in the new location by the first of next year—a very visible new location.”
Allison gives credit to city and county leaders for seeing the opportunity for the center to be housed in this available downtown building. “I think in an indirect way, this makes a statement that our community is proud of this provision of services,” she says. Can the building’s high profile help to stem negative and stereotypical points of view? Well, that may be an idealistic goal, but it is certainly a move in the right direction.
Allison Ogden has been directing the goals of Four Rivers Behavioral Health since 1997 and she’s optimistic about reaching new ones in the near future. “We’re hoping to continue our focus on services to children. We also want to enhance our growing relationship with other service providers in coordinating care. We hope to implement more broad initiatives with primary care physicians who often are the first point of contact for persons in need of our services.”
Allison also identifies the need for continued support of the center in order to achieve these developing missions. “Because we are the public safety net and we’re not for profit, we depend on the support of state funding and community contributions. We’ve been blessed with a good constituency of support over the years. But we will continue to need increasing levels of financial assistance to execute the modernization of these types of services into the future.”