Central Clinic Behavioral Health celebrates 100 years of impact

Community leader in health services poised for another centennial of growth

Cincinnati, OH – Central Clinic Behavioral Health (CCBH) is celebrating 100 years of award-winning behavioral health services. When it was originally founded, CCBH was the first mental health nonprofit organization in Ohio and one of the only community clinics that served both children and adults.

Founded in 1923 as the Central Psychiatric Clinic, the nonprofit started as a pioneer based on its unique community-based mental health services for children, creating what is now the oldest outpatient mental health clinic west of the Alleghenies. CCBH was established through a five-year, $30,000 investment from Community Chest (now United Way) and has evolved to serve adults, children and families through 24/7 support, addiction and recovery services, mental health services, culturally responsive services, LGBTQ+ services, forensic evaluation and specialty services. CCBH continues to receive support from the United Way.

CCBH has remained true to its mission – to provide a compassionate approach to behavioral health services that result in lasting recovery and resiliency for children, families, and adults – for 100 years while serving 18,000 people each year at 11 Greater Cincinnati locations.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to impact thousands of people and for a community that supports our ability to instill hope and achieve wellness,” said Dr. Walter S. Smitson, CCBH president and CEO. “CCBH has been a leader in providing behavioral health services for 100 years, and we’re just getting started. We are dedicated to even more growth in the next 100 years.”

Dr. Smitson has served CCBH for 55 years. He began working in 1967 as an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. Now a tenured UC professor of psychiatry for more than 50 years, Dr. Smitson has helped expand CCBH’s reach, budget and staff while fostering the growth of outpatient behavioral assistance for patients in Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties.

To show gratitude to the community as part of its 100-year anniversary, CCBH is hosting Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Matt Richtel to discuss the mental health crisis among U.S. teens, which he covered extensively in a 2022 New York Times series, “The Inner Pandemic.” More event details will be announced later this year.

As part of the 100-year milestone, CCBH will also host an employee luncheon May 12 and will be honoring six staff members with newly created Centennial Personnel Awards.

“Our staff helps patients become stronger, healthier, and more full participants in their communities, which in turn keeps communities vibrant,” said CCBH Chair Michael O. Chaney, who leads the 10-member Board of Trustees. “We pride ourselves in our ability to serve all types of people and accept each patient for who they are. We’re especially proud to salute extraordinary employees who serve those patients in the pursuit of wellness.”

Through its distinctive business model, CCBH serves as a training center for social work, counseling, and psychology students from local universities, as well as psychiatric residents from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

A collaborative relationship between the University of Cincinnati and CCBH started with the nonprofit’s first director, Dr. Emerson A. North, and this relationship continues today. Dr. North led the organization through initial stages of growth while holding a position as professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

In 1932, CCBH moved from its downtown location to the UC College of Medicine campus based on a decision by Dr. Raymond Walters, UC’s president at the time. CCBH’s main offices have been in UC’s Logan Hall since 1971. The building is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The impact of CCBH extends beyond its walls. CCBH strives to meet the needs of its diverse patients through five divisions: Adult Services, CDC Behavioral Health Services, the Child & Family Treatment Center, Court Clinic, and Mental Health Access Point (MHAP).

MHAP, which will be renamed Central Connection and expand access for substance use disorder services starting July 1, is the front door for Hamilton County’s behavioral health system. It will continue to collaborate with the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, as well as with Hamilton County Job and Family Services and other Hamilton County systems and agencies.

Because mental illness and substance use disorders know no boundaries, CCBH is dedicated to serving individuals, children, and families of all ethnicities with programs that are accessible, individualized, effective, consumer-oriented, trauma-informed, and recovery/resiliency-based.

CCBH has adapted to the needs of the community over the last 100 years. CCBH opened a specialized program for women experiencing mental health and substance use issues at the request of the courts, and shortly thereafter expanded to include a specialized program for men. Additionally, CCBH is the first behavioral health organization in Cincinnati to provide collaborative services in support of LGBTQ+ adults. Further, CCBH recognized a need to serve the growing number of Latino families in Greater Cincinnati communities and schools. During the pandemic, CCBH quickly transitioned to include a telehealth platform to continue to serve its clients.

CCBH has improved thousands of lives since its inception 100 years ago. Through its dedicated behavioral health services and forward-facing vision, CCBH is poised to assist thousands more in the next 100 years.