Since its founding 51 years ago, Crisis & Counseling Centers has become one of the most trusted behavioral health agencies in Maine, with approximately 120 employees located across six facilities and numerous community-based settings statewide.
Originally founded by a group of young idealists as a teen drop-in center, under the name of Rap & Rescue, the center opened its doors at a coffee shop storefront in Hallowell on May 28, 1970 to address the spike in substance use related crises in the Kennebec Valley. Staff helped teens struggling with substance use, offering an array of classes ranging from arts and crafts to workforce development. By 1974 the agency changed its name to Crisis & Counseling Centers (C&C) and extended services into schools and correctional facilities.
In the early 1980s, C&C began offering crisis services to adults in Somerset County. In an age before cellphones, the program coordinated crisis workers using two-way radios, sending its five staff members out to the distant parts of one of the state’s most geographically dispersed counties at a moment’s notice. It was the mental health equivalent of fire, police and EMT services rolled into one. The Crisis Program set a high bar for a fast, sensitive and highly competent response to a broad range of mental health crises.
C&C paved the way for treatment of co-occurring disorders beginning in 1987, providing help to clients with both mental health and substance use disorder conditions, by providing treatment on a contract basis at the Augusta Mental Health Institute (now Riverview Psychiatric Center). That same year the G.E.A.R. Parent Network was founded as a family-driven, entirely parent-run organization to empower parents and caregivers of children and youth with emotional and behavioral health needs. G.E.A.R. would later become a program of C&C in 1996.
To address the growing need for crisis services, residential Crisis Stabilization Units (CSU) were opened to provide short-term stabilization from a crisis within a community-based setting. The first house opened in Skowhegan in 1991 for adults, followed by Halifax House for children and teenagers in Winslow in 1998, and later in 2004 with support from the Maine State Housing Authority a third CSU was opened in Waterville. Further support for individuals following a crisis became available in 2003 when C&C began providing outreach aftercare services.
In the early 2000s C&C was instrumental in establishing Maine’s first Co-Occurring Disorders Court (CODC), providing community-based treatment for individuals with histories of trauma and involvement in the legal system, and launching a Co-Occurring Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) serving adults with significant mental health and substance use disorder treatment needs. To support the expansion of the CODC, C&C opened its Skowhegan Outpatient office in 2009.
C&C began providing mental health and substance use disorder treatment at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility (KCCF) in 2004 and within two years was providing integrated health services (all behavioral and primary health care services) at the facility. In 2010 a new Criminogenic Addiction Recovery Academy (CARA) was launched at KCCF—the first intensive, jail-based substance use disorder and criminogenic treatment program in Maine.
During that same time, C&C collaborated on the Kennebec County Comprehensive Jail Diversion Project in 2007 and from 2010 – 2013 was awarded a Second Chance Act Adult Offender Reentry Demonstration Project grant.
In 2013, C&C expanded its adolescent behavioral health services with the launch of the Generations program to provide targeted emotional behavioral support to youths as young as age 3 and their families and by establishing case management services for children with intellectual disabilities and pervasive developmental disorders. In 2016, C&C further expanded its case management services to support children with developmental disabilities and chronic medical conditions.
In 2015, the Augusta Police Department partnered with C&C and other community health providers to offer the Angel Program recovery coaching service and outpatient substance use disorder treatment to people in the Augusta area, especially those struggling with opioid addiction. Individuals were encouraged to submit any drugs or paraphernalia to the police station without consequences and were connected to a trained recovery coach to start the process of recovery.
In 2019, C&C’s 15-year tenure of providing treatment services within KCCF transformed into a community-based partnership with the continuation of the CARA program at C&C’s outpatient offices in Augusta and the implementation of a reentry program providing substance use disorder treatment via telehealth to incarcerated individuals as well as community-based supports for individuals returning to the community.
New programs to tackle the Opioid epidemic through the OPTIONS initiative, a diversion program to help individuals in Kennebec county facing low-level substance use related criminal charges, as well as a nine county-wide initiative to support young people who are at risk of suicide and their families all launched in 2020.
Today, Crisis & Counseling Centers offers a full range of behavioral health services, including counseling and medication management for mental health, substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders tailored to adults, youth and families; mobile and short-term residential crisis stabilization services in Kennebec and Somerset counties; Children’s Targeted Case Management services in seven counties; PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) Case Management services in three counties; Targeted Case Management for pregnant women or parents struggling with substance use disorder in three counties with plans to expand; correctional behavioral health care diversion and reentry services for individuals with substance use disorders and OPTIONS programming in Kennebec and Somerset counties; youth suicide prevention services in nine counties; and statewide parent and caregiver support through the G.E.A.R. Parent Network program.
“Serving the community through a pandemic has renewed Crisis & Counseling Centers commitment to meeting our neighbors where they are at in their behavioral health journey,” shares Michael Mitchell, LCSW and CEO at C&C. “It’s natural at this historic crossroad to celebrate achieving so much throughout these 50 years, but there is so much vital work ahead. We remain dedicated to finding innovative ways to provide the highest quality behavioral health services and supports for our neighbors.”