As we celebrate our birthday this week, we look back over 50 years ago when Clara Martin and others were advocating for mental health care in this rural region. When the Community Mental Health Act was signed into law in 1963 by John F. Kennedy, it changed the delivery of mental health care across the country. The work of Clara and others ensured that the small rural towns in Orange and Windsor counties were not overlooked when the state rolled out the new Federal initiative to create the designated community mental health system we all know today.
Clara and her husband, Dr. Brewster Martin, had come to Chelsea, Vermont, in 1953 and opened a medical practice and later a nursing home, caring for local residents. Clara worked as Brewster’s assistant and recognized that the care for those with a mental illness – usually a stay at the state hospital lasting for several years and sometime decades – often robbed the spirit from their lives.
Clara Martin and others shared concern for the care of those patients and wanted to bring those affected back home to their communities. At the time, Dr. Martin’s office had a social worker one half-day each week. The local mental illness specialist had a waitlist of six months or more.
With the new legislation, the region opened the Orange County Mental Health Services on October 27, 1966. Located in Randolph, Vermont, the agency served all of Orange County and the five northernmost Windsor County towns. Today we serve the region with local access in the towns of Randolph, Chelsea, and Bradford and in Wilder. Clara Martin Center also partners with other Mental Health agencies in the area of addiction and some residential step down specialty programs.
To honor Clara, the agency’s name changed to the Clara Martin Center in 1994.
Happy Birthday Clara Martin Center!