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“Looking Back on 50 Years”
As Told by Mrs. Barbara Harris
When Pete came to the Laconia Clinic as a pediatrician in 1962, he had been in private practice in Scarsdale, New York for ten years.  The one thing he missed here was the ready availability of psychological help for children and families in need.  At that time the only resources here was the infrequent visit of mental health professionals from Concord.  These visits were inadequate to address even the most basic mental health needs of this community.  These concerns soon put Pete in touch with the Lakes Region Mental Health Association that was chaired by Carol Pierce, who, incidentally, still sits on the Genesis Board of Directors today.  With the Association’s blessing, Pete proceeded with his dream of establishing a local professional organization to meet these needs.
 
It was also during this period that the Kennedy administration was in the process of re-designing our nation’s mental health system – literally from the ground up.  With the passage of the Mental Health Center Act of 1963, federal funds became available to establish community-based mental health centers throughout the United States.
However, these government funds were only available if they were matched locally.  When this challenge became known, Pete proceeded to seek these matching funds.  His initial task of meeting with Boards of Selectmen in surrounding towns was not easy!  I know he would be pleased to see the increased support Genesis has received from municipalities in recent years.
 
We were just at the very beginning of the movement to bring those living with mental illness into the mainstream of American life.  Many of the people Pete met in the beginning subscribed to the belief that “one should pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps,” and support wasn’t forthcoming from that direction.  Eventually, the Laconia School Board and the City of Laconia decided to establish part-time psychological services in the local public schools.  With this support, the Lakes Region Mental Health Center became a reality in July 1966, with one psychologist and a total budget of $39,000.  We were blessed to have the late Helen Holbrook as an employee during the early years, and Genesis was fortunate to have her as an advocate for mental health.
 
Pete became the first president of the Board, and during our first year of operation 465 people received services.  Howard Bacon became the second president in 1971, and since then so many others have contributed to the success we celebrate half a century later.
 
Looking back on those early years on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary, it is difficult to capture how dynamic, exciting, and busy those years were for us, and for many others who helped to create the foundation upon which Genesis Behavioral Health stands today.

For a paper copy of this publication, please contact Ann Nichols at anichols@genesisbh.org or 524-1100 x445.

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