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12 People You Need to Know in 2018: C.J. Davis

Breaking the Stigma

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Burrell forward. That’s the mantra of Burrell Behavioral Health’s new CEO, C.J. Davis. He’s making big plans weeks into his new role.

“We’re already the second-largest community mental health center in the state of Missouri, but I would like us to be a regional community mental health center and potentially a national community mental health center,” Davis says.

Davis got his start in the mental health industry in community mental health in the mid-1990s.

“I started providing case management services in homes with my bachelor’s degree and eventually became a therapist,” he says. “I fell in love with the prospect and thought of being a change agent for people.”

Davis moved into executive work at a psychiatric hospital in Windsor, 100 miles north of Springfield. He worked there for 10 years before getting a CEO role in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for an organization called KidsPeace. That job led to the president and CEO post of Four County Counseling Center in Indiana.

“Then, I had the opportunity to return home to Missouri and was fortunate enough to be selected as the next CEO of Burrell Behavioral Health,” Davis says.

At Burrell, he succeeds founding executive Todd Schaible. The CoxHealth-affiliated Burrell employs over 1,300 in 17 Missouri counties also providing treatment of substance abuse, developmental disabilities and autism. It has an annual operating budget of $85 million.

Determining how many people are in need of mental health services is based upon a general 20 percent prevalence rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It means the Springfield metropolitan statistical area, with a population of roughly 500,000, should have about 100,000 people that need behavioral health services. But Davis and the rest of Burrell, including the company’s region in Columbia, are only helping approximately 30,000 people.

“There’s a difference of 70,000 people that should be walking through our door who don’t,” Davis says. “People are concerned about being judged, ashamed about being seen in our facility or feel as though mental health is an illegitimate medical condition.”

He wants to help normalize “checkups from the neck, up.” He’s got a few ideas.

“One thing that we need to do is partner with our medical providers. People are usually way more receptive to  a referral from a physician if that specialist or that provider’s right in that office,” Davis says. “There’s more demand for our services than ever before.”


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