Established in 1949, the Scott County Mental Health Center was one of three outpatient psychiatric clinics formed in Iowa in response to the 1946 National Mental Health Centers Act providing diagnostic and referral services for those unable to afford private care.
In 1967, the Center began to provide the five essential mental health services to the community, including outpatient, day treatment, partial hospital, emergency, and consultation/education services. In 1969, with over $400,000 in community support applied toward a matching federal construction grant and with Mercy Hospital (now Genesis Medical Center) offering available land on their campus, construction began on the current Center facility which opened in February 1972. The professional staff had grown from twelve to twenty-seven full-time positions. Fifty volunteers complement the Center’s work.
The Center expanded its programming to include residential care, halfway house services, drug and alcohol abuse services, and community support programming for the chronically mentally ill. Financing moved from “public” to “public/private” as Federal and State government transferred responsibility back to the local community.
Vera French, M.D., Ph.D., was acknowledged for her leadership and contributions by renaming the Center in her honor in 1982. Dr. French served as the Director from 1968 until her retirement in 1980. Under her leadership, the community, the Center Board of Directors, and the staff turned dreams of developing comprehensive services for the mentally ill into reality.
The years 1985 through 1989 were marked by significant program expansion when the Vera French Community Mental Health Center in cooperation with Scott County, developed community support, case management and vocational services programs. The Center initiated community outreach programs to serve target populations, including elderly, homeless and disadvantaged families.
In 1985, the Center Board established the Vera French Foundation, in order to continue its mission in an increasingly complex public and private care delivery system. The mission of the Foundation includes identification and development of multiple funding sources to support the goals of the Center.
In 1987, the Center entered into a lease agreement with Scott County, whereby Vera French assumed responsibility for the operation of the Pine Knoll Residential Facility, with Scott County retaining ownership of the property. Pine Knoll offers residential treatment for Scott County residents with persistent mental illness, allowing transition, as appropriate, to community living.
In 1990, the Center began working with governments and community agencies to address the shortage of affordable, low-income housing. Recommendation from this study included the formation of a separate, non-profit housing development corporation. The Vera French Housing Corporation was formed in October 1994 to assist persons with long-term mental illness to obtain permanent, affordable housing that is linked to the Center’s support services. Since that time, over 105 low-income housing units have been created to serve Scott County residents with serious mental illness.
In 2001, the School-Based Mental Health Services Program was established. Today, this program has expanded to serve over 1,000 elementary school children and their families in all four school districts in Scott County.
Today, while each of the three corporations has its own goals, corporate bylaws and governing board, the three corporations continue the Vera French mission. Collectively, the Vera French corporations employ 200 staff members at locations throughout Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa.