High Plains was created in 1964, through action taken by the joint efforts of the County Commissions in Ellis, Rooks, Phillips and Norton counties. Kansas law gave local government the authority to create single or multiple county mental health centers. Spearheading the push was a citizen's task force that researched and advocated the need for local mental health services.
High Plains was developed as a "Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center" and became eligible for Federal funding under the Community Mental Health Center Act of 1963. The geographical area boundary lines were drawn in compliance with Federal requirements of a minimum population density equaling 150,000 people. Therefore, the initial plan was to serve the 18 counties of northwest Kansas. Over the next few years, a total of 20 counties joined the effort. Rush and Ness Counties preferred to be included in the Northwest Kansas plan and chose to join.
The 20 counties now comprising the regional service area are Cheyenne, Decatur, Ellis, Gove, Graham, Logan, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Phillips, Rawlins, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Thomas, Trego and Wallace. Governance authority over the operations of High Plains is vested in citizens appointed by their respective County Commissions to serve on a Governing Board.
In addition to the home-base services in Hays, there are five full-time Branch Offices located in Colby, Goodland, Norton, Osborne and Phillipsburg. There are six weekly office sites located in Atwood, Hoxie, Oberlin, Quinter, Russell and Smith Center..
High Plains is now one of 28 community mental health centers licensed through the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. It is the largest rural center in the state.
Over the years, High Plains and its service programs have received numerous state and national awards of distinction for excellence.