World War II provided a unique opportunity for conscientious objectors to serve their country in alternative service. Many were assigned to state mental hospitals across the country and were dismayed by the impersonal, sometimes cruel and brutal treatment inflicted upon persons with mental illness.
Believing the church had something important to contribute to mental healthcare, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) organized Mennonite Mental Health Services, an agency of Mennonite groups in the United States, to plan three small hospitals. Kings View, the second of the mental hospitals to be launched by MCC, opened in 1951 in Reedley, California. This hospital, funded primarily by local Mennonite church contributions and built with volunteer labor and supplies, provided the first Mennonite establishment to deal with treatment of mental illness in the Western US.
The original facility was built on the Kings River as an inpatient psychiatric hospital and the hospital established a national reputation for excellent care for the mentally ill. In the 1960s and early 1970s outpatient mental health and drug & alcohol services were expanded through the development of community programs. These community programs were established and continue primarily through contracting with small and medium size rural counties in Central and Northern California. Additionally, in 1975 a day facility providing activity and work experience opportunities for the developmentally disabled was established in Atwater and Los Banos. In the late 1980s a drug & alcohol prevention and restoration program was established in Fresno which provides services to various communities in the Central Valley region. More detailed information regarding Kings View's earlier years is contained in the book "If We Can Love - The Mennonite Mental Health Story (Chapter Four)".
In 1990 the inpatient hospital was closed for business reasons and was converted to a residential facility for troubled adolescents. Again for business reasons, in 2001 the adolescent residential program was closed and the facility was sold.
Beginning in 2003 a new and innovative program ,Tele-Psychiatry, was begun which provides psychiatric care to patients in outlying areas that have problems accessing these services. This program utilizes tele-conferencing equipment that enables our psychiatrists located in our Fresno office to meet with patients in remote locations. This program now provides services to fifteen different locations in Central and Northern California.
Kings View continues to work at understanding the continually changing business of providing behavioral health care to underserved populations in California. As in the past it is essential that we maintain a keen awareness and a willingness to make adjustments as necessary in order to continue to provide services in accordance with our mission.