WellStone Behavioral Health enjoyed the privilege of joining the Huntsville Grace Club on December 10, 2015 to honor two ladies who are true pioneers in the development of community mental health services in our area. A pioneer is defined as someone who helps create or develop new ideas or methods, and Ms. Mary Butler and Ms. Evelyn Wright certainly fit that description. Both highly educated social workers, Ms. Butler and Ms. Wright became friends in 1955 and began working together towards the adoption of a wide array of new programs and services to benefit the Huntsville community. They were both deeply concerned that people with a mental illness could not be admitted as patients in the city hospital and instead were transported by law enforcement to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa. These two young social workers sought to change this practice and established a local chapter of the National Mental Health Association to educate others about the plight of those with mental illness. They recruited the first psychiatrists and psychologists to our community, paving the way for the Mental Health Clinic to open in 1958 and Huntsville Hospital to eventually designate a ward for patients with mental illness. Ms. Butler and Ms. Wright continued to work together on a community-wide needs assessment that led to the passage of Act 310 by the 1964 Alabama Legislature and the 1967 incorporation of the Huntsville-Madison County Mental Health Board. The Board now does business under the name WellStone Behavioral Health and has helped hundreds of thousands of people over the last several decades as a result of the work of Ms. Butler and Ms. Wright. We are forever in debt to these amazing women and will continue striving every day to build on their legacy by restoring hope and healthy living thru the provision of comprehensive behavioral health services in the community.
The Grace Club is Huntsville’s oldest women’s civic club and is now in its 101st year of continuous dedication to our community.