Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With ... C.J. Davis

President & CEO, Burrell Behavioral Health

Posted online

The impact of COVID-19 is affecting everyone in our community. What are your concerns as it relates to mental health?
There are really three groups of individuals that we’re worried about. One group is your typical, preexisting mental health client, either have historically engaged in services or are engaging in services. You think about a compromised immune system; they have a compromised ability at present time to deal with life circumstances. We know how to treat those folks. Then the other population is what I really would reference as the A-COVID, the anxiety of COVID. And those are folks that experience typical concerns regarding the pandemic and the anxiety associated. The third real group is the frontline staff of any health care entity that are experiencing and countering and absorbing all the emotional anxiety of the individuals they come in contact with.

Talk about caregiving in a time that many are practicing social distancing.
I’ve been on Twitter making sure people don’t confuse social distancing with social isolation. We realize during this pandemic that there is going to be an increase in depression and anxiety. So, what we’re moving toward is the ability to offer telephonic services. If somebody were to walk through our doors, we’ll have a health screener asking them if they’ve experienced symptoms over the last 24 to 48 hours, if they’ve traveled internationally, if they have flu-like symptoms, etc. And if they say yes to any of those things, of course we refer them to their local medical provider, but we immediately offer a telephonic service. We’ve been really supported by the Department of Mental Health and the state of Missouri to ensure that telephonic services are appropriate and that they are something that our organization can provide within the code of billing.

What does anxiety look like? How can employers help?
When you have the anxiety related to A-COVID, you’re going to have increased general worry, you’re going to have some probably mild obsessions. Depending on the individual, you would see some temporary disruptions in sleep (and) ability to concentrate either at work or at home and (maybe) disruptions in mood. What we do know from pandemics is that most people experience some sort of acute stress lasting around three to four weeks. Employers have to be very cognizant of this A-COVID There may be some absenteeism, there may be some concentration issues that impact performance. My urge to local employers would be to be extremely flexible, extremely supportive. If you didn’t believe that mental health was important in the workplace, this is proof that it is.

President Donald Trump indicated copays would be waived temporarily for COVID-19 care. Does that include mental health?
Nobody knows for sure. From what we understand, the COVID virus copays are really around the testing and the immediate access to physical medicine. Although under law, we have parity with physical medicine, so that mental health, physical medicine should be treated the same. Our hope will be is that if somebody accesses care as a result of A-COVID, they would have the ability to have those services paid for.

For offices that are working remotely, what are your suggestions on keeping connected?
I would encourage employers at the beginning of every conference call to do a quick check in with every single person participating. Create an environment that is extremely predictable – everything from making sure you have agendas at every meeting to making sure that you’re communicating as much as possible from leadership down to every single staff member. And making sure that HR is really present.

C.J. Davis can be reached at


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