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IN COLLABORATION: Brandan Gremminger and Shelly Farnan with Burrell Behavioral Health, along with Whitney Mann of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department (seated), are among collaborators in a mental wellness grant program.
Heather Mosley | SBJ
IN COLLABORATION: Brandan Gremminger and Shelly Farnan with Burrell Behavioral Health, along with Whitney Mann of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department (seated), are among collaborators in a mental wellness grant program.

Burrell, HLA receive $200K mental wellness grant

Organizations set primary goal of reducing suicide rate

Posted online

A local collaborative proposal to fund projects reducing the stigma for seeking mental health care has resulted in a $200,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc.

The CFO funding made through its Advancing Mental Wellness Grant Program is being awarded to a collaboration led by Burrell Behavioral Health and the Healthy Living Alliance of the Ozarks. The grant proposal from Burrell and HLA was selected from among 11 applications in the competitive bid process, according to CFO spokesperson Aaron Scott. The grant will provide as much as $600,000 over three years if the recipients meet grant-renewal requirements.

Burrell’s funds will go toward its Our Networks Engaged program, as well its Be Well self-care initiative. The ONE program helps businesses and organizations train staff and implement in-house suicide prevention measures. A community health assessment found the local suicide rate is nearly 60% higher than the national average.

Brandan Gremminger, vice president of clinical operations at Burrell, said the behavioral health provider and HLA are taking a multimodal approach to improving public health. That includes early intervention for mental health care for youth and training for adults. Officials say a primary goal for the grant funding is to reduce the suicide rate, particularly among men, in the Springfield area.

“It’s just pretty phenomenal to know there is the support for stigma reduction and suicide prevention from the (CFO),” Gremminger said.

HLA is a collaborative of more than 40 health and community organizations, including Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc., Burrell, CoxHealth and Mercy.

Take action
Whitney Mann, public health program representative with the Health Department, who also serves on a communication subcommittee with HLA, said the collaborative in May launched, an online resource hub, in conjunction with Mental Health Month. She said part of HLA’s goal with the grant is to drive visitors to the site.

“That kind of serves as a local online and interactive resource for people who are seeking treatment or information and education related to mental health,” Mann said. “It covers Greene County as a whole and all the services that we have available.”

Mann said through the site, HLA wants to help people before a mental health crisis occurs.

“With that mental health hub, we’re going to be producing video content and physical assets that people can have,” she said, noting some grant funds also will help with paid advertising that promotes a positive message around men’s mental health. “As we get into early fall, we’re hoping to have some of those video assets completed and out in the community.”

Shelly Farnan, vice president of Be Well Initiatives, said because the grant has a focus to reduce suicide, Burrell visited with the Health Department to determine the highest-risk populations. Men were particularly high – data supported by the 2022 Springfield Community Regional Health Assessment produced by the Ozarks Health Commission, she said. The Springfield area’s suicide mortality rate of 22.2 deaths per 100,000 people is 60% higher than the national average of 13.8 deaths per 100,000 people according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The city also is 21% higher than Missouri’s rate, which is 18.3 deaths per 100,000.

“We’ve got to take action and we can’t take action quickly enough, which is another reason we’re thankful for this grant opportunity,” Farnan said. “It helps us to be more specific in our approach.”

While Farnan said details are still being compiled, a trio of Be Well summits are being planned for the first year of grant funding.

“We do not have those dates set yet. We’re coordinating with the Healthy Living Alliance,” she said, noting one of the summits will target men, primarily between 30 and 60 years old, while another will seek to reach LGBTQ+ individuals.

Officials plan to have the third summit address gun-related deaths by suicide.

Farnan said the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which launched last year and is accessible by calling 988, has been of significant value with “a phenomenal response rate.” Burrell took 3,341 calls from the national line during fiscal 2023, according to officials.

Still, Farnan said she occasionally runs into people unfamiliar with the phone number.

“It’s all of our responsibility to continue to educate as to the accessibility of 988,” she said.

Setting goals
The three Be Well summits are among first-year goals Burrell and HLA seek to reach to qualify for additional grant funding, said Samantha Sudduth, system director of grants at Burrell. Others include implementing the Sources of Strength program addressing school suicides into at least one Springfield area district and partnering with up to seven businesses or organizations with the ONE Movement.

Since debuting in 2021, ONE has trained over 2,150 community members in QPR, which stands for question, persuade and refer, Gremminger said. Some refer to the training as the behavioral health equivalent of CPR, he added.

“It’s pretty basic and practical training on suicide prevention to identify early warning signs, risk factors and be able to engage with another human being to get them referred to the help that they may need,” he said, noting the grant will cover training costs for participants. “It really empowers all people regardless of their training and skill sets to be able to make a positive difference and get somebody referred to help.”

Gremminger said no businesses or organizations have been selected yet for ONE, but Burrell plans to work with HLA to identify the best options. There’s a desire to be intentional to work with businesses that have a large male workforce to better reach some of the grant’s targeted audience, according to officials.

“On the Health Department side, as we’re working with Burrell and promoting some of the services they’re offering the community, another thing we’re trying to do is reduce the stigma around mental health and also just encourage folks, and men, in particular, to start a conversation around their mental health,” Mann said.

Mann said when health officials were researching to apply for the grant, there was a desire to create a campaign that focuses on issues involving mental health awareness and suicide reduction with men.

“That’s where this collaboration comes into play. We all have this ability to work together to start getting material out to the community and start putting some of those messages out,” she said. “Then as people are paying attention to their mental health, they might access services at Burrell or access with Cox, Mercy, (National Alliance on Mental Illness) or any of those.”


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