History of Hanover Mental Health Association

As a result of advancements in the field of mental health treatment in the early 1980’s, Virginia increased funding to its localities in order to bring mentally ill residents home from state hospitals to receive rehabilitation and treatment in their communities. Research in the field proved that the longer individuals remained in state mental hospitals, the less likely they were to get better, integrate back into their communities and return to productive lives. Often those discharged would relapse and be readmitted to expensive, but unsuccessful state hospital treatment. Research indicated that a full range of community mental treatment, residential, psychosocial rehabilitation and other community support services were essential for real recovery.

Despite the influx of state funding, most Community Service Boards, including the one in Hanover, we’re not funded at a level sufficient to provide the full range of recommended services. As a result national and state mental health associations encouraged their local chapters to get involved in direct services to fill the gap. As a result Hanover Mental Health Association developed the first psychosocial day support program in Hanover that came to be named Sunrise House.

With the help of the community and the Richmond Chapter of United Way, the Hanover Mental Health Association raised enough money to develop and staff the program. Sunrise House was additionally financed by contracting with the Hanover Community Services Board to serve their clients.

Hanover Mental Health Association is incredibly grateful for the support from local citizens who contributed to the United Way and financially supported the Sunrise House Ball and its successor, Friends of Hanover. Through this local support HMHA was able to pay off the mortgage on the Sunrise House property and continued to provide what became the first recovery orientated mental health rehabilitation program for mentally ill adults in Hanover.

In 2004 HMHA and the CSB began to discuss ways to expand the program’s impact without incurring additional administrative and staffing expense. It seemed practical for the CSB to incorporate Sunrise House’s responsibilities and costs for state reporting, staffing, facility management, billing, and related tasks under their current umbrella. By 2005 HMHA and CSB had cooperated to transition existing staff and programming to the local government mental health agency. Program participants were familiar with recovery philosophy from its’ start at Sunrise House, and named the enlarged program space RAFT house.

Transfer of the day support program to the CSB freed up the HMHA to explore new and important ways to provide for some unmet needs in the community. The Sunrise House building served a vital function and was rededicated as The Thomas Hale III Education Center at Sunrise House. The Center was a place for community education, leadership training and professional development utilized by consumers, their families, mental health professionals and the public.

In 2016 HMHA decided it could serve its expanded mission even more effectively by selling the Sunrise property. The proceeds from the sale, along with donations and grants, has allowed HMHA to provide one time direct financial support to citizens of Hanover County with mental illness who are in need of assistance. Often HMHA has assisted with one time housing expenses, which are not provided for through other means. HMHA is proud to also support the educational and advocacy efforts of our state and national parent organizations, Mental Health America – Virginia, and Mental Health America.