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In 1973, Jefferson County had few social service agencies or alternatives for the legal system. Counseling was expensive and only available by traveling to St. Louis. Alcohol or other drug counseling was almost unavailable at any price. The county needed professional mental health services, but did not have the finances to create an agency to provide them.

One of the first men to recognize the need was Judge John Anderson. Anderson, W.H.S. (Stu) O'Brien, a public defender, and the District Supervisor of State Probation and Parole, Melvin G. Williams, met on an informal basis numerous times lamenting the lack of assistance to the judicial system. The three men decided to create a not-for-profit corporation that would build a halfway house, the most immediate need seen. Other community needs would be addressed later. Enlisting the aid of attorneys Brent Williams and G. William Weier and Jefferson County Sheriff Walter "Buck" Buerger, the papers were filed. The Articles of Incorporation were approved and the Corporation was created on January 22, 1973. The agency's goal was "to reduce recidivism... and allow the community to participate in his reintegration into the community." The corporation advertised for an Executive Director.

The group picked Stephen F. Huss, chairman of the Social Studies Department of Hillsboro Secondary School for the job of Executive Director. He began in March 1973, serving without pay until the agency became financially viable. Stu O'Brien and John Anderson both contributed $5 to open a checking account--instructions were given to Huss to make it grow. The group began efforts to obtain publicity and funding. This effort focused on the theme People Need People, explained the purpose of the center, gave a rationale for community care and solicited donations under the Federal 501 C3 status recently obtained. The agency’s legal name, Community Treatment Incorporated was shortened to COMTREA—the first syllables of each word. Thus, COMTREA came into being.

Williams sought assistance from the Region V Missouri Law Enforcement Assistance Council and Huss approached the Division of Alcoholism on the Missouri Department of Mental Health for financial aid.

The honeymoon period ended in September 1973 when COMTREA selected an old meat-packing building in Festus for the site of the proposed halfway house. While Senator Eagleton headlined a box-lunch auction for the agency, and State Representatives and other county political figures supported the effort, community opposition increased due to the visibility of the proposed site in the middle of downtown Festus. The Board stood by the site in spite of personal attacks and continued the effort to secure funds. The last newspaper article in 1974 that dealt with the agency announced: "COMTREA Means Hope in Jefferson County" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

1976 became the pivotal year for COMTREA. A disastrous fire gutted the building on February 22. Like a phoenix, COMTREA arose stronger. The community understood what it would lose without the center. It rallied around the agency. The year also brought a finalization of its future direction. The residential program had been funded by a combination of Probation and Parole money and Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse money. However, the Probation office wanted all the beds and was willing to pay a substantial amount more than the DADA. Huss approached the Board with the idea that COMTREA should forgo the lucrative Probation contract money on principle. After much discussion, the Board committed to becoming the community mental health center for the county. COMTREA chose to develop along the lines of the mental health system rather than legal system because of the increasing community demands for professional counseling on an outclient basis in the areas of psychiatric, family problems and child abuse. Schools began referring children to the agency and the community recognized COMTREA as being responsive to the community demands for services.

COMTREA developed a stable (although inadequate) funding source for the agency--the Missouri Department of Mental Health. It was one of the first programs in Missouri to be certified by the DMH. "COMTREA Becomes Integral Part of Twin Cities'" read the headlines in early 1978. In cooperation with the St. Louis State Hospital, COMTREA initiated psychiatric counseling for those who needed medication

The Missouri Department of Mental Health designated COMTREA as the Community Mental Health Center for Jefferson County (Service Area 22) in 1978. Also during the year, the agency took over the small St. Louis State Hospital Outreach Center in Hillsboro's County Health Clinic. In 1981, one newspaper headline stated "Growth and Change Make COMTREA Indispensable." Unfortunately, President Reagan's massive cuts in alcohol and drug funding forced the closing of the Resident Program and the elimination of the Saint Louis branch office.

In 1983, the DMH asked COMTREA to direct the counseling for dioxin and flood victims in the Times Beach area in addition to its other duties. Two days after being contacted, COMTREA staff began assisting traumatized community members in Times Beach.

In April 1984, COMTREA secured the passage of a marriage and divorce fee for the support of abuse victims in Jefferson County and began a jail counseling program. Mental Health Month, May, brought a Family Day and a celebrity auction that used items donated by Willie Nelson, President Ford, Alan Alda, Billy Graham, Pat Boone, Ray Charles and others. The Serendipity Singers were brought in for a concert.

In 1986, the agency became the ninth in the state to be certified by the Missouri Department of Mental Health for Psychiatric Services. From the middle of April until August 5, COMTREA staff and over two hundred volunteers worked toward the passage of the $.10 tax. The issue passed with almost 60 percent of the vote, losing only three rural precincts out of 80. This guaranteed $800,000+ per year for mental health services to the county. In September, the County Commission appointed the COMTREA Board as the Community Mental Health Fund Board for the county as the presiding County Commissioner as a member. In October, COMTREA purchased property on Armbruster Road near Athena/DeSoto for the residential program mandated by the DADA. The property included a 4100 sq.ft. home, an outbuilding, 18 acres and a stocked pond. Staff spent the remainder of the year working on and developing the Spouse Abuse Shelter and residential chemical abuse treatment, and expanding other programs.

In 1988, the Jefferson County Day Treatment Program for children who were severely emotionally disturbed and severely behaviorally disordered opened six months after a group of educators met with COMTREA. That same year, Dr. Huss had an article published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The article, "Fighting Drug Abuse the Wrong Way," focused on the need for an overall attack on chemical use and abuse using prevention, education, outreach, case finding and treatment.

Other major events included:

  • 1993 COMTREA secured the passage of Children’s First legislation to assist divorcing parents deal with the issues of the children of the marriage
  • 1995 COMTREA opened Keaton Center RCF and helped establish a crisis program, BHR
  • 1997 La Jade Theater was donated to COMTREA
  • 1998 COMTREA’s A Safe Place Domestic Abuse Shelter opened
  • 2000 Treatment Family Homes for children with chemical abuse problems opened in De Soto by COMTREA; the Children’s Advocacy Center for forensic sexual abuse is created in De Soto and Sullivan serving nine counties; the agency received National Accreditation by the Council on Accreditation (COA) for all of its programs
  • 2001 Dr. Huss presented a paper to the Franklin-Covey International Symposium presentation in Salt Lake about the use of 7 Habits for Teens in the Adolescent program; opened the St. Louis office on Cherokee St.
  • 2002 began divorce mediation services; participated on a committee that developed a Jefferson County Drug Court
  • 2003 implemented the COMTREA-School Liaison Project that placed a professional counselor one day a week in each of the 11 public schools in Jefferson County
  • 2004 COMTREA secured passage of a 1/8th cent sales tax for children’s services in Jefferson County
  • 2007 COMTREA received the National Behavioral Health Care Award for Community Collaboration
  • 2008 COMTREA school liaisons were placed in all public school buildings in the county and also served three private schools.  In the same year Dr. Huss received the Silver Key Award from the Mental Health America for his service to the mentally ill. The Seeley Building was built on the Hwy 30 Corridor
  • 2009 The governor appointed Dr. Huss to the State Children Trust Fund Board
  • 2010 Dr. Huss received the NCADA Community Service Award
  • 2011 Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter to COMTREA on Valentine’s Day; A “Dangerous Drug Task Force” developed under the leadership of COMTREA brought public attention to the heroin problem; opened a residential Substance Abuse Services to adolescents at the Susan Nuckols Residential Treatment Center in partnership with the Juvenile office and the County Council
  • 2012 purchase of Bridle Ridge Acres, a 45 acre farm located in the center of the county seat; was designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center and began primary health care service delivery in October

The agency began with two $5 donations and increased its budget to over $18 million by 2012. From a halfway house for seventeen young boys who had criminal charges and were drug users in 1973, COMTREA grew to be an integrated, comprehensive health center by October of 2012.

Services include:

  • Primary health care for all regardless of income
  • Dental services for children
  • Individual counseling and therapy for psychiatric, chemical abuse, personal and family problems
  • Seniors' services; especially geriatric psychiatry
  • Group counseling and therapy
  • Family counseling and therapy, in-home and in one of the COMTREA locations
  • Psychological testing and evaluation
  • Psychiatric evaluation and diagnosis
  • Day treatment for children (Jefferson County only)
  • Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center
  • Adult drug court treatment
  • Family drug court treatment
  • Divorce Mediation
  • Jefferson County Adolescent Drug Court
  • DWI court treatment
  • C-STAR for adolescent chemical abuse (all of Lincoln, Warren, St. Charles, Franklin, Jefferson counties, St. Louis County south of Hwy 40 and St. Louis City south of Hwy 44)
  • C-STAR for adults
  • Child abuse counseling and therapy
  • Rape counseling
  • Death and dying counseling
  • Domestic abuse counseling, for victims and for perpetrators
  • Exit and entry point for the Missouri Department of Mental Health (Jefferson County only)
  • Case management services to clients
  • Follow-up and aftercare
  • School liaison services in 11 public schools in Jefferson County, one in St. Louis County, and three private schools in Jefferson County
  • Specialized children's services
  • Specialized seniors' services crisis response (flood, other disaster)

For residential care, COMTREA offers:

  • Chemical abuse residential programming for adults with 42 beds and social detox. (this program suspended in the summer of 2010 due to funding issues)
  • C-STAR day treatment (partially United Way funded) with 18 beds in three group homes and social detox
  • Victims of domestic abuse with 22 beds
  • Emergency short-term care
  • Emergency psychiatric medical care, including crisis response and crisis beds
  • Residential care facility for 24 psychiatric patients

In the areas of consultation and evaluation, COMTREA provides:

  • Mental health consultation for schools, churches, etc.
  • Prevention/education for chemical abuse, domestic abuse, suicide, depression, family problems
  • Substance Abuse Traffic Offenders' Program
  • Gambling Addiction Program
  • Divorce Education (court mandated in Jefferson County)
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Divorce Mediation
  • Jefferson County Adolescent Drug Court
24 Hour Crisis Services
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©2018, COMTREA, All Rights Reserved

COMTREA Main Office: Festus, Missouri   Phone: 636-931-2700   Fax: 636-931-5304                                     

This health center receives HHS funding and has Federal Public Health Services (PHS) deemed status with respect to certain health or health-related claims, including medical malpractice claims, for itself and its covered individuals.

Copyright ©2015 by Community Treatment, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This Web Site (the "COMTREA Site") is operated and maintained by COMTREA, Inc., a Missouri non-profit corporation. The information contained on the COMTREA Site shall be deemed provided in the State of Missouri and subject only to Missouri laws. The information and other materials on the COMTREA Site are provided without charge to you, subject to these Conditions of Use and Legal Notices. If you do not wish to be bound by these Conditions of Use and Legal Notices, please leave and do not use the COMTREA Site. If you access and use the COMTREA Site you will be deemed to have accepted and agreed to all of the Conditions of Use and Legal Notices.

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