Prairie View celebrates with 60th anniversary dinner

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Faith-based mental health care agency traces its beginning to CO experiences

By Misty Elder with files from PVI

Prairie View, Inc., a faith-based agency that offers behavioral and mental health care services to south central Kansas, is celebrating 20 years of ministry this month. The organization will honor this milestone with a 60th anniversary dinner on March 13 in Newton, Kan.

The event will honor those who have contributed to Prairie View’s history while celebrating a future of innovative opportunities to provide transforming services that improve the lives of individuals, families and communities. Speakers will include Prairie View president and CEO Jessie Kaye, along with special guest Rick Stiffney, Mennonite Health Services Alliance CEO from Elkhart, Ind.

Prairie View, Inc., traces its beginning to World War 2 and events that took place in North America rather than in Europe or the South Pacific. Throughout the span of World War 2, conscientious objectors including 1,500 Mennonites gained firsthand knowledge of how the mentally ill were warehoused in state-operated hospitals.

When the war ended and they returned to their home congregations, these young men shared their experiences and pondered how the church should improve the conditions in mental health treatment. Their sense of urgency and moral responsibility inspired Mennonites to advocate for dispelling the stigma associated with mental illness. They recognized that persons suffering from mental disorders were within their own families, congregations and communities and deserved the highest quality and most humane treatment possible.

At the same time in history, great minds emerged in the field of psychiatry and the science of the human brain and treatment for diseases began to evolve.

“Together these forces created a kairos moment,” says Dorothy Nickel-Friesen, two-term board member for Prairie View, Inc. The combination of science and Christian witness set in motion a ministry that continues to transform lives decades later.

The Central Care Advisory Committee, composed of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) related groups, planned and prayed over their shared vision for five years. Their Christ-centered work led to the opening March 15, 1954, of Prairie View Hospital. Founded on the prairie of south central Kansas, the result was construction of a 60-bed psychiatric hospital for Mennonites. It was built entirely by volunteer labor and staffed largely by volunteers.

Word spread quickly beyond the Anabaptist community and the leadership at Prairie View felt an obligation to provide service to anyone who needed it. Christian compassion, a treatment philosophy based on scientific study and innovation remain at the heart of Prairie View today.

This human service ministry continues through an unwavering sense of mission, grounded in faith heritage, values and progressive and high-quality treatment. Every day Prairie View transforms lives through the treatment of all behavioral health conditions, supporting the patient, caregivers and loved ones. Through inpatient, outpatient, and community-based services, Prairie View annually serves more than 13,000 patients.

The science and human understanding continue to advance. Prairie View is among industry leaders when it comes to innovation and strategic collaboration. Clinicians of multiple disciplines provide specialized services to children, families, adults and older adults. Addiction treatment is approached from an exceptional holistic therapy method, treating the mind, body and spirit of the individual. Prairie View is the only provider in the state of Kansas for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy, a unique FDA-approved non-medication treatment for depression.

Prairie View also provides experiential learning for corporations, congregations and boards who desire to create strong teams to sustain them into the future. Opportunities to work together and overcome challenges encountered on high and low elements on Prairie View’s adventure courses empower groups to communicate and cooperate in ways that enhance effectiveness in board rooms and classrooms across Kansas. Prairie View provides comprehensive behavioral health services, but also promotes holistic wellness in many creative ways.

Prairie View’s evolving community alliances are helping build healthier communities. They have been a strong influence in the creation of a fully integrated community health collaboration that will serve the needs of those most vulnerable. With a focus on the uninsured and those in poverty, the Harvey County Health Collaboration will provide comprehensive health and wellness under one roof. In a newly renovated facility, Prairie View’s Health Home Services, the Harvey County Health Department and the Health Ministries Clinic will serve patients from multiple counties in south central Kansas.

It isn’t easy. “External regulation and the incredible demand on all types of resources provide challenges to delivering services to everyone who needs us,” says Prairie View CEO Kaye. “Although we receive funding from various public systems and many commercial payers, it is important to realize that these payments do not cover the actual cost of service delivery, especially for those without adequate health insurance or financial resources. And those funders certainly do not reimburse for chaplaincy services, prevention efforts or needed outreach to families and communities. Thus, we have a continuing need for charitable support.”

Philanthropic support in the form of annual gifts, grants and charitable bequests are valued tools to ensure the quality, scope and legacy of Prairie View.

“If we can nurture relationships with the faith community,” Kaye says, “and if the church embraces its role as supporter, advocate and influencer, we can overcome the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse disorders and improve access to high quality care and support. Through collaboration and outreach in our shared communities we can provide hope and healing to some of the 65 million Americans personally experiencing mental illness.”

Another serious concern is the scarcity of qualified clinicians. “We must be responsible stewards of our human resources,” Kaye says. “Our staff is the heart of who we are. High risk, low compensation and emotional intensity make human service ministry very challenging and the risk for staff burnout is high. We currently face a scarcity of geriatric psychiatrists, child and adolescent psychiatrists, addiction treatment clinicians and addictionologists. Maintaining these valuable specialties within our organization is critical.”

Kaye says, “One patient comes to mind. One year ago, she was in a wheelchair, barely able to speak and continuing to decline. Though our comprehensive approach to treatment, her clinicians were able to diagnose and treat a medical condition that complicated her mental disorder.

“Today she is walking, talking, a very active participant in her own treatment, and involved with various community and church activities. Her strong faith, together with our individualized services, is sustaining her as she deals with issues of grief and loss. She says she is unable to imagine her life without Prairie View,” Kaye says.

“As Prairie View celebrates 60 years of ministry and continues to look toward our future, I want the church to recognize us as a transforming ministry—an extension of the greater church. Our mission statement describes the “compassion, competence and stewardship” we offer in “the spirit of Christ,” Kaye says.

The main campus of Prairie View remains in Newton, Kan., with outpatient offices in Hillsboro, McPherson and two locations in Wichita. Through bylaw and in agreement with the Mennonite Health Alliance, a majority of the composition of the Prairie View governing board must be Anabaptist affiliated.

Misty Elder is director of advancement for Prairie View.

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