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Officials mum on Forest Institute bankruptcy

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Officials tied to the shuttered Forest Institute of Professional Psychology are mostly mum on a recent bankruptcy filing.

The institute on Sept. 28 filed for Chapter 11 reorganization, claiming assets of nearly $72,000 against liabilities of nearly $110,000, according to the bankruptcy court filing with the U.S. Western District of Missouri.

The filing’s list of creditors includes an unsecured claim of over $32,000 by Burrell Behavioral Health. It also includes a handful of claims related to tax liens filed by the Missouri Department of Revenue. Checking accounts at Great Southern Bank represent Forest Institute’s assets.

Burrell Behavioral Health purchased Forest Institute in 2013, and in 2015, contributed loan funding so the institute could dissolve. The school’s 2885 W. Battlefield Road campus closed in fall 2015, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

The West Battlefield Road property is listed in the filing as the location of principal assets for Forest Institute.

Burrell in May 2017 successfully rallied City Council to pass a rezoning ordinance of the 53-acre property, so the organization could consolidate administrative offices at the former Forest Institute campus. The rezoning change followed a failed attempt by Burrell to sell the campus. Burrell is still listed as the owner via Greene County assessor records.

Burrell spokesman Matt Lemmon deferred questions on the bankruptcy to Megan Weaver, who’s listed in the filing as president of Forest Institute. Burrell does not appear to be currently connected to Forest Institute.

It’s unclear if the Forest Institute name continues to exist for any other reason than to pay off the debts listed in the bankruptcy filing.

Reached yesterday, Weaver said she was pressed for time and unable to answer questions. She deferred questions to other parties involved in the bankruptcy, and this morning, was out of the office. No one involved in the bankruptcy process reached out to SBJ.

Weaver, who previously worked for Forest Institute, most recently as president for a year ending when the school’s campus closed in 2015, is now director of academic services for Ozarks Technical Community College’s Richwood Valley campus, according to her LinkedIn profile.

The case’s bankruptcy attorney, Ronald Weiss of Kansas City-based Berman, DeLeve, Kuchan & Chapman LLC, could not be reached for comment by deadline. In the filing, Weiss said he was hired by Forest Institute officials to negotiate “with secured creditors to reduce market value,” as well as represent the organization on “any dischargeability actions, judicial lien avoidances, relief from stay actions or any other adversary proceeding.”

Kent Ragan, who’s listed as chairman of Forest Institute in a Missouri secretary of state filing, declined to answer specific questions about the bankruptcy. Forest Institute is in good standing with the secretary of state, and officials most recently filed a registration report on Aug. 10.

“It doesn’t hardly affect anybody,” said Ragan, interim associate dean for Missouri State University’s Finance and General Business Department.

Prior to its closing, Forest Institute served as an independent graduate school teaching master’s and doctoral students to be psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and applied behavior analysts, according to SBJ archives.


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