A Conversation With ... Dr. Mark Skrade
Monday, August 06, 2012 11:27 AM
What is Forest Institute’s history and purpose?
Company: The School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute
Title: President, since 2000
Education: Bachelor’s in psychology, Evangel University; master’s in psychology, Forest Institute; doctorate in psychology, Forest Institute
School startup: Skrade was a master’s student at Missouri State University in 1984 when he heard that Forest Institute was considering coming to Springfield. He helped the school find the facility that’s now home to Forest’s Robert J. Murney teaching clinic.
Forest started in Des Plaines, Ill., and then expanded to four campuses. It consolidated all of its campuses in Springfield in roughly 1994. We’re the only remaining entity related to either Forest Health Systems or Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. Individuals who train at the master’s and doctoral levels in behavioral sciences train to be actual hands-on practitioners after they become trained and licensed. Our students are required to complete 1,200 hours of hands-on training, and that first term of training occurs at the (Robert J. Murney) Clinic under close supervision of our licensed staff.
What services are provided through the Murney Clinic?
(It) offers the entire range of services that a community mental health center would offer. So if you align that with our degree programs ...we can do psychological testing, we do individual and family therapy, we do couples’ therapy, relationship services, anger management, applied behavior analysis services. More than 80 percent [of the clients] are self-pay at the Murney Clinic. We have a sliding scale that starts at roughly $8 per session.
Is demand for services up in 2011 as compared to 2010?
I don’t have the chart in front of me in terms of 2011 to 2012, but I do know that when I assumed the presidency in 2000, we were seeing about 2,000 client contacts annually. [Now] we see roughly 8,000 to 12,000 client contacts annually. Part of that is marketing. It’s our focus on expanding our services, letting people know they won’t be turned away. ... Services for depression are our most sought-after services. In 2011, 16.4 percent of new clients came seeking assistance for depression.
In January, Forest approached Missouri State University with the idea of merging the two institutions. Have the schools collaborated before?
The relationship we have with Missouri State dates back to 2000. There’s a system called MOBIUS [the Missouri bibliographic information user system], which has millions and millions of volumes that our students now have access to because (of the original) 2000 affiliation agreement between MSU and Forest Institute. In 2004-–05, I was again in a merger conversation with Missouri State. Part of that was driven by (former MSU President John Keiser) wanting to expand degree programs and the reach ... to potential students. A doctoral program in addition to the master’s program we have here at the Murney Clinic and our commitment to the community fit with President Keiser and with where (MSU) was at the time. We spent a couple of years at that time doing due diligence. It came down to finances (as) the state had been cutting subsidies to institutions of higher learning. That merger didn’t work primarily because of the cuts and subsidies at the state level, so we tabled it, although we did sign an extended affiliation agreement.
What led you to restart merger talks with MSU earlier this year?
I’ve known interim President [Clif] Smart for a number of years just in different settings ... and with the changing environment in education, regulations and regulatory bodies kind of making it harder and harder on small independent schools like ours, I reached out to Clif and asked him if he’d like to continue the conversation. ... So we had signed a letter of intent and that was very public, and Clif said at a recent gathering that we should have a pretty good answer this summer, and I would say that’s true. What we’re working on now is what a merger might really look like. So I think it’s moving along well. ... I think students – and students being the collective for us and for Missouri State – will benefit from the merger. Springfield – the region – will benefit from the expanded programs, the services coming together. I think we’ll benefit as a community broadly from the merger.