Northern’s history as a multi-county, non-profit organization begins on May 4, 1966, with the signing of an agreement with the county commissioners of the five northeast counties of Wyoming. This was the culmination of more than ten years of effort at the local level to organize and fund regional community mental health services, and at the State level to enact enabling legislation.
Although promotion and development efforts in the other four counties of the region paralleled efforts in Sheridan County, the Sheridan County Mental Health Association, Sheridan Junior Women’s Club and a special committee of the Sheridan Chamber of Commerce were leaders in the campaign for community mental health services in Region II that led directly to the organization of the Center. This included the support of a small one-county clinic in Sheridan beginning in October, 1958.
At the time the five county agreement was signed, the Sheridan Clinic had been receiving State funding for two years. This State funding was transferred to the five county organization beginning in FY 1967.
The Center, under the five county agreement, was staffed by the fall of FY 1967. Federal support was awarded by way of a staffing grant beginning July 1, 1967. With this federal grant came the definition of a comprehensive community mental health center, and the requirement that five basic services were to be provided: inpatient, outpatient, twenty-four-hour emergency coverage, consultation and education, and partial care.
The Center continued to grow and add staff, allowing clinicians to develop specialized skills, and focus on special programs, i.e., children and families, substance abusers. A federal grant was awarded July, 1973 for special services to children. At the same time, the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse allotted money for a Substance Abuse Specialist.
In 1974, the State passed legislation increasing the proportion of sales and use tax revenues returned to the cities. The Center received support from cities in the service region for the first time from these funds.
Until 1974, outpatient offices were located in a Main Street office building, a downtown business office building, a vacant school building, a nursing home, and a courthouse. In the summer of 1974, staff moved into new buildings in four counties and remodeled space in the basement of the Crook County Courthouse. This project was funded under PL 88-164, which provided federal monies for construction of mental health facilities.
With the passage of PL 94-63 in 1977, Northern was required to provide other specialized services, including services for the elderly, rape victims, screening and follow-up of patients hospitalized at the State Hospital, children, and substance abusers.
For the next decade, the Center continued to provide comprehensive services, with growing support and guidance from the State and increased support from local governments.
In 1987, Campbell County withdrew from the five county agreement to set up an independent, one-county program under the hospital. At the same time, local governments were forced to cut financial support of the Center along with other service programs, and the State was forced to deal with decreased revenues, all because of losses experienced in the minerals industry. Northern continues to operate as a four county, regional mental health center, providing mental health and substance abuse services.
Expansion of clinical services continues as Northern seeks to meet the mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention needs of the residents of Northeastern Wyoming.