John H. Meister, executive director at Thrive Counseling Center, announced he will retire in 2022 after five years leading the nonprofit organization.

Meister was vice-chair of Thrive’s board in 2016, when he agreed to step in as interim executive director. He was then tapped to succeed the previous director of the Oak Park and River Forest community behavioral health center.

“Thrive is a place of healing that has served generations of our neighbors. We are grateful for John’s leadership these past five years,” said Stephen Morales, Thrive’s current board chair.  “John stepped in at an important juncture for the agency and established a strong financial and programmatic foundation on which we will continue to build.”

The past year saw a significant uptick in utilization of mental health needs. Thrive, under Meister, expanded access to care by adding a child and adolescent psychiatrist to the staff, doubling the therapists serving children and youth, and increasing clinicians caring for adults. He worked with the 20-person board to recently complete a five-year strategic plan that seeks to further expand access to services to those in crisis.

Meister also worked to establish Thrive as a center for suicide prevention, providing life-saving intervention training for thousands of first responders, concerned villagers, and students at Oak Park and River Forest High School and Fenwick High School. His work on Thrive’s comprehensive suicide prevention program was recognized and accredited by CARF, an independent organization that upholds the highest standards of care and community service for behavioral health centers. This makes Thrive the only behavioral health center in Illinois with an accredited suicide prevention program.

Meister also pushed outreach efforts at Thrive. In 2019, Thrive launched “Thrive Talks,” a series of expert presentations on mental health topics offered to the community for free. Thrive Talks such as “Aging Fearlessly,” “Anxiety in Children and Teens,” and “Suicide: A Health Crisis” are available on the agency’s website.

With Covid-19, Thrive introduced tele-health services for therapy and launched a no charge Check-In Line, allowing anyone struggling emotionally to speak to a therapist.

Jan Pyrce, a former Thrive board chair and longtime advocate for mental health resources in our community, said “John Meister has demonstrated a deep commitment to Thrive’s mission of offering of ‘Hope, Resilience and Recovery’ to individuals of our community. His leadership of the agency and his personal dedication to helping individuals get help has made a difference in the lives of many individuals. … I am grateful for John and appreciate the depth and breadth of his contributions to Thrive, facilitating the continued access of mental health services in the community.”

A search for a new executive director will begin shortly. Meister will retire after new leadership is in place. Thrive is located at 120 S. Marion St., Oak Park.

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