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It seems almost unimaginable in retrospect, but Adam Andreassen and his team at Burrell Behavioral Health managed to open a crisis center in the middle of a global crisis.
“I’m blown away sometimes, and it’s not in a ‘Wow, look how effective we are’ way. It’s more of a just humbled by how many things came together,” Andreassen says.
Andreassen points out the nation already was in mental health crisis before COVID-19 hit anyone’s radar.
He says, “The demand for mental health was growing and at the same time, Burrell had a lot of catch-up to do to scale up to meet that demand.”
He says by the time the pandemic hit, his team was well accustomed to a very demanding pace.
In two short weeks, Burrell transformed the way it delivered care to the community.
“The one word I seek to apply in every aspect of my functioning is adaptive,” Andreassen says.
Despite the pandemic and the increased demand for mental health services brought with it, Andreassen and his team remained determined to open the Behavioral Crisis Center in summer 2020.
The center gives police and other emergency workers a third option when responding to someone in the midst of a substance-use or mental health crisis. The choices are no longer limited to the jail or hospital.
Andreassen credits tremendous community support for keeping the project on track.
“After the BCC opened, we’ve seen a 40% decrease in the number of individuals presenting to Mercy with behavioral crisis. It’s a much better fit for them,” he says.
He says people who are treated at the BCC also seldom return.
“That tells us we’re connecting with them. They can have up to a 23-hour stay, but most are gone in four to six hours. That’s because their immediate needs have been attended to. They no longer feel that they’re in immediate crisis.”
He says it also gets emergency responders back on the job within 20 minutes, whereas it might have taken hours waiting for a determination in an emergency department.
Missouri’s Department of Mental Health now sends other systems to Burrell to see how the crisis center works, and Andreassen says there are plans to create another one in Columbia.
He expects the pace worked by Burrell’s leadership will continue to be brisk.
“Demand for mental health services is on the rise. We expect a 20% [increase in] demand for workforce. As demand rises, we will need to keep up,” he says.
To meet that demand, he launched a workforce development initiative to establish tuition assistance partnerships with Missouri State and Evangel universities.
Andreassen credits the Burrell team for the advancements.
“I know the success I enjoy is truly the result of working on the most talented and passionate team anywhere in behavioral health,” he says.
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