MONTICELLO — Wabash Valley Alliance, a community mental health center, was officially rebranded Wednesday as Valley Oaks Health.
The event took place during a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house at the agency’s Monticello location — 920 W. Executive Court — just off North Sixth Street behind Keller Williams Realty.
The agency provides mental health and substance abuse addiction services for people in need at 111 locations in Fountain, Benton, Montgomery, Jasper, Clinton, White, Carroll and Tippecanoe counties.
It has been in exhausted since 1938, when it started out as an in-patient hospital in Lafayette, before becoming a mental health center in the mid-1970s and expanding beyond the Lafayette area. It now seeks to provide resources for counseling, support groups and other resources to combat addiction and mental illness.
Valley Oaks Chief Executive Officer Tom Gilliom said the name change is meant to be more welcoming to people.
“The board of directors challenged me to lead us into reshaping and revitalizing Wabash Valley Alliance,” he said to those in attendance. “As a result, we initiated a plan to listen, ask for assistance and transparency, and to rebrand ourselves.”
Gilliom and others present for the event acknowledged how some found it difficult to locate the agency, despite that its resources have been used by local law enforcement and schools. He hopes the rebranding, which began last year, will let people in need of help know that they are welcome.
“We’re changing ourselves. We want to be welcoming for people to come in. We want people to know that we’re here,” he said. “If they don’t get mental health and addiction services with us, we want them to get it from some place. The message we want people to have is, ‘It’s okay to get help and we want you to get help.’”
Monticello’s agency, Gilliom said, is a fully functioning office and “100 percent outpatient.” It is no longer affiliated with the in-patient hospital in Lafayette from which it began.
“A person can come in and we can work with them on any issue they have — any age, from 3 years old to 90 years old,” he said. “We have a psychiatrist who’s here two days a week — for adults — and a child adolescent nurse practitioner who’s here one day a week for anyone 18 and younger; six therapists who can do addiction, mental health and family work; and case managers who go out of the facility to provide services in schools and homes.”
Valley Oaks has been at its current Monticello location since January 2008. It’s been a part of the community for almost 20 years under its former name. Yet, Gilliom said, people are still surprised to learn of the services they provide close to home.
“I run into people all the time who tell me, ‘I didn’t know you had an office in Monticello’ or ‘I didn’t know you had an office in Delphi,’” he said. “That shows us we still have a lot of work to do to get the word out that we’re here and we want to help.”
Deborah Vessels, Valley Oaks’ branch director for the Monticello facility, said the goal of Wednesday’s open house to let people know they exist.
“A lot of people didn’t know we were here, so we wanted to invite the community to the building so they could come in, take a tour of our agency and see how comfortable it is — and how easy it is to come in and access services,” she said. “We want people to come in and see our faces.”
Gilliom said if people don’t want to visit the Monticello office for fear of being recognized by people they know, they may visit Valley Oaks’ other locations, which include Rensselaer, Delphi, Attica, Crawfordsville, Frankfort, Otterbein and Lafayette.
“We will help as long as they seek help somewhere,” he said.
He also explained the deeper meaning intended behind the agency’s new name.
“We wanted to keep ‘Wabash’ or ‘valley,’” he said. “We decided on ‘valley’ because life has ups and downs, peaks and valleys,” he said. “We decided on ‘oak’ to go along with it because oak is the strongest, biggest and most indigenous tree in this area.”
Gilliom and his colleagues, in Monticello and elsewhere, hope people will take advantage of the resources the agency will continue to provide.
“We wanted to keep the history but also to show that we know people have ups and downs, and we want them to get services,” he said. “Whether it’s here or it’s someplace else, we want them to get services and it’s OK to get services for mental health.”
More information on the agency’s services can be found at valleyoaks.org.