Mental-health center's name has purpose

NASHUA – When the Community Council of Nashua board of directors discussed adopting a new name, a few “fluffy” choices got tossed into the mix, an agency official says.

After all, other mental-health centers in the state bear such names as Genesis and Riverbend, and some directors thought Nashua’s center should be called something along those lines.

It took a consumer of mental-health services to change their minds, said Susan Stearns, the agency’s director of development.

Look, the person explained, there’s already a stigma attached to mental illness. Why compound it by adopting a name that hides the purpose of the center to treat people with mental illness?Thus, as of this morning, the Community Council of Nashua has become the Greater Nashua Mental Health Center at Community Council.

Later this afternoon, the center will unveil new administrative offices on West Pearl Street. An open house for the 100 W. Pearl St. center will be from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau will speak about 5 p.m. to congratulate the center and call attention to Oct. 5-11 as Mental Health Awareness Week in Nashua.

Despite the new building, the center will continue serving adult clients at 7 Prospect St. and children at 15 Prospect St. The center also will maintain ownership of its facility at 440 Amherst St.

The Community Council has a long history of serving the city, Lozeau said.

Consolidating the administrative offices in the new building will provide more space in the agency’s other facilities to serve clients, she said.

The West Pearl Street site formerly housed a shoe store and lighting business and had been vacant several years.

Office space is a good use for the location, Lozeau said.

The center is a private, nonprofit agency. It is also part of a network of 10 mental health centers across the state, Stearns said. The Nashua site will continue serving both clients who carry their own insurance, and Medicaid patients who have severe and persistent mental illness.

Calling the service a mental health center better reflects the purpose of the center, which since 1967 has been solely for mental health care, Stearns said.

When the Community Council was founded in 1920, it had a much broader mission, Stearns said.

In its early years, the council chaperoned dances to prevent a digression from moral behavior, maintained streetcars for sanitation and proper language, and taught English to immigrants who came to Nashua to work in the mills.

Also, the center operated a polio clinic following the epidemics of the 1940s.

The new name may seem overly complex – something akin to baseball’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The name Greater Nashua Mental Health Center at Community Council was picked “to be mindful of history and not completely turn our backs on it,” Stearns said.