Kennebec Behavioral Health was incorporated in 1960 as Kennebec Mental Health Association to promote a comprehensive community mental health program for the community of Kennebec County. Carmen Celenza, the Association’s first full-time Executive Director, increased agency funding and recommended expanding services to Somerset County which the Board approved in 1966.
Between 1970 and 1980, what was publicly known as Kennebec Valley Mental Health Center (KVMHC) secured National Institute of Mental health funds, growing its budget from $140,000 to $1.4 million per year and became an official Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center. By 1980, the number of clients who received services provided by 40 professional and 24 support staff grew from 400 to 10,000 yearly.
The first clinic opened in 1985 in Augusta. By 1990 the budget was nearly $3 million yearly and programs included inpatient, day hospital, outpatient, emergency, and community support and child abuse. Between 1997 and 2002 a facility opened in Skowhegan, a vocational clubhouse in Waterville, a Family visitation center in Augusta, and a second vocational clubhouse in Augusta.
In 2003 after reorganization, agency management and board renamed it Kennebec Valley Mental Health Center with four affiliate boards. By June 2004, the agency staff had grown to 200 employees and administered a budget of more than $14 million. A third clinic also opened in Winthrop.
To better reflect its expanded capabilities and geographic coverage, the non-profit now called Kennebec Behavioral Health continued to offer new programs to meet demand. By 2010, KBH’s budget had reached $22 million, and 325 providers and support staff worked in clinics, homes, and schools through central and mid-coast Maine to support 13,900 persons, an increase of 11 percent. In 2011, the third vocational clubhouse opened in Lewiston.
KBH added more case management, homeless outreach and several preventive-oriented programs in Somerset County, services at the Jackman and Bingham medical centers, and in Pittsfield, Rockland and Bangor. In May 2014, KBH opened two additional supported housing units in Waterville to provide more residential options for those with mental illnesses.
Today, the agency employs over 400 staff members and offers more than two-dozen programs to adults, children and families in Kennebec, Somerset, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Franklin, Penobscot and Waldo counties. For 55 years, the agency has envisioned and worked toward a community in which everyone enjoys physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health – and remains in pursuit of that goal.
For a full timeline please click here.