Our History

No Where to Turn

It's 1969 on the University of Iowa campus. Two young freshmen return to their Burge Hall dorm room and find the completely unexpected - their roommate has barricaded the door and attempted suicide. They rush her to care and after a long and scary night, are sent home knowing she is going to be physically okay. But in the following days, as the two women deal with both their roommate's and their own emotional upheaval, they learn there are simply no resources available to help them.

That experience launched a campaign of advocacy, for those two young women and on behalf of all University of Iowa students, to establish support services for others in crisis. The two women began knocking on doors and by 1970, had found an ally in Verne Kelley, the Community Mental Health Center's director at that time. With Mr. Kelley's help, these students established what would become The Crisis Center of Johnson County today.

In the Beginning

The original service was a telephone hotline that people could call to seek counseling and advice on whatever might be troubling them. Trained volunteers staffed the phones to respond to callers in crisis and specialized in suicide prevention and intervention.

For the first two years, the hotline operated out of a secret location in Iowa City. In 1972, services were moved to a new location and The Crisis Center began accepting walk-in clients for counseling. The center expanded its phone service to be 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in 1976.

Philosophy & Collaboration Guide Growth

The Crisis Center was founded with the philosophy that a client should determine how he or she can best be helped, using a process that ensures dignity to all who are served. This philosophy has facilitated The Crisis Center’s growth as the community it serves has grown in the past 40 years.

A small food pantry was added in 1978 in response to client needs. Clothing and household items became available through vouchers from Goodwill and Crowded Closet in 1983.

Throughout the 1980’s, The Crisis Center worked to expand its suicide prevention services and began offering support for survivors of a suicide loss. Services were developed to respond to the needs of transients and the homeless.

In the following decade, a collaboration with the local religious community led to distribution of emergency financial support. The Food Bank grew into a weekly operation and began working with Table-to-Table to distribute locally gleaned food.

In recent years, The Crisis Center has added suicide prevention training and crisis incident stress management services.

Community Response

While The Crisis Center has served as a resource for individuals with a wide variety of personal crises, it has also been a leader in helping with community-wide problems.

The Crisis Center responded to the Farm Crisis in the 1980’s, took action during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990’s, and has been integral in helping Johnson County rebuild after the 1993 floods, the tornado in 2006 and flooding in June 2008.

In 2009, The Crisis Center helped create the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition to address the alarming increase of suicides in the community.

Helping Us Help Others

True to its philosophy of people helping people, throughout the past four decades The Crisis Center has relied on the community to make its services possible. More than 250 volunteers assist a small paid staff with service delivery. A majority of The Crisis Center’s budget comes from the financial support of individuals, organizations, churches, and businesses. Nearly 75% of the Food Bank’s distributions are donated.

Your First Call in Johnson County

As The Crisis Center prepares for the next 40 years, our board of directors have adopted a five-year strategic plan to continue the organization's tradition of responding to the community we serve. The plan strives for continuous improvement in the quality of services we provide and growth and expansion to address the emerging needs of individuals and families in crisis.

We want to be your first call in Johnson County.