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PARTNERSHIP PAIR: Fordland Clinic’s Joan Twiton, left, and Burrell Behavioral Health’s C.J. Davis are working on service details for a partnership the health care agencies forged this summer.
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
PARTNERSHIP PAIR: Fordland Clinic’s Joan Twiton, left, and Burrell Behavioral Health’s C.J. Davis are working on service details for a partnership the health care agencies forged this summer.

Thought Leaders: Agencies get active in boosting the accessibility of mental health services

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A partnership Burrell Behavioral Health and Fordland Clinic finalized this summer is part of the foundation being built locally toward bolstering mental health services.

The health care organizations are expanding primary and mental health services within the next month by treating each other’s patients. At Burrell’s 1300 E. Bradford Parkway campus, the behavioral health provider’s patients can receive primary care services. In addition, Fordland Clinic is expanding mental health services in its Fordland and Kimberling City facilities, said CEO Joan Twiton.

“We’re just really right now in the service-planning mode,” said Burrell President and CEO C.J. Davis. “We’re looking at all the opportunities to interface the two organizations.”

Each organization will remain autonomous and retain its own boards, officials say.

Fordland Clinic is a nonprofit federally qualified community health center that provides medical, dental and mental health services in Webster and Stone counties. Burrell’s service area incorporates 17 counties in Missouri and eight in Arkansas.

“This is not an area that Fordland Clinic has done a lot of work in,” Twiton said of mental health services. “There’s a great need.”

The move is Burrell’s latest in a string of community connections the Springfield-based company has made in the past year. Other recent local partnerships forged are with Springfield Public Schools, Mercy Springfield Communities and Greene County Family Justice Center. Burrell provides behavioral health services including therapy and counseling, autism and developmental disability support, crisis intervention and treatment for addictions.

The need to treat mental health and substance abuse disorders is evident in a Springfield-Greene County Health Department report released in April: Over 30,000 people in the county – more than 10% of the population – sought help for mental health and/or substance abuse issues in 2017.

Part of that service expansion is happening in-house, as Burrell’s Bradford Parkway campus now includes five rooms for primary care that connects to its psychiatry and nursing departments. The renovation of meeting and training space was completed this year, said spokesman Matt Lemmon. The unique aspect of the space is a focus clinic, Davis said.

“It’s a specialty clinic for kids who are struggling with attention issues, hyperactivity and some behavior management concerns,” he said, adding the focus clinic is less than 30 days away from opening.

Behavioral health services, including telehealth, also will be offered in Fordland and Kimberling City, but Twiton said that wouldn’t take place until later in the fall. Davis said telehealth, along with dental services, also would be offered in Burrell locations sometime in the next year.

He said the two organizations are working on a master service agreement to outline all the connecting points and services each is providing to one another.

“That’s some of the tedious work that we’re in the middle of right now – figuring out where the best bang for the respective agencies’ buck is,” he said.

School services
As another of Burrell’s partners, SPS officials are pleased with the expanded presence the health care agency has on campus. Burrell’s presence in the district has expanded since February to provide on-site therapeutic care and case management services for students, as well as faculty training and consultation. The focus is on the Hillcrest attendance boundary, which represents around 4,000 students among nine schools, SPS officials said. The services are provided at no cost to the district, as it is able to take advantage of mental health services reimbursement through Medicaid.

“What it’s done and how it’s impacted our students and staff has been great,” said Rhonda Mammen, SPS director of counseling services. Since the health provider began the expanded services earlier this year, around 300 more students have received assistance since 2017.

In the 2017-18 school year, 209 students received behavioral health services among six clinicians. This past school year, with less than one semester of Burrell’s larger presence of 11 clinicians, the student count jumped to 353 – a nearly 69% increase.

“If we keep with the same pattern that we’ve had in the last semester, we expect to be close to 500 (students) by the end of the school year,” Mammen said, adding Burrell now has 16 clinicians at SPS campuses. “For us, there’s more immediate resources for students. By having it in the school setting, there’s more assurance that they’re going to have everything they need. That’s going to be the difference.”

Mammen said early intervention with mental health issues could be vital among students, some of whom may be contemplating suicide. In a Sept. 3 study session, SPS school counselor data for the 2018-19 school year noted 658 students disclosed suicidal thoughts and 598 said they had exhibited self-harming behavior.

According to the 2018 Missouri Student Survey, conducted jointly by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Mental Health, more than 1 in 10 youth reported they had considered suicide in the past year. In addition, 11% made a plan to attempt suicide and 6% attempted it. In Greene County, those student numbers are higher, as 18% seriously considered suicide, 12.5% planned it and 6.7% made an attempt.

Aside from connecting with Burrell, SPS is also entering its second year of a mental health first aid program. In partnership with Community Partnership of the Ozarks, SPS participated in the national program through Kickapoo High School’s selection as one of the sites. In the program, students learn about mental illnesses and addictions, as well as how to identify and respond to developing mental health or substance abuse problems with their classmates.

Mammen said the district remains involved in the program this school year with two more high schools, Central and Parkview, joining Kickapoo. By the 2020-21 school year, the plan is to add Glendale and Hillcrest high schools, she said.

Getting on task
Mental health also has been a focus on a county level, as the Springfield-Greene County Health Department released results in April from a community mental health and substance abuse assessment. Funded by a $252,500 grant through The Missouri Foundation for Health, the study garnered feedback from more than 200 people in 18 focus groups and 62 interviews with individuals representing more than 50 service organizations.

“I think it was a balanced approach and it provided us with a really good context for identifying what the real needs are,” said Katie Towns, Springfield-Greene County Health Department assistant director. One of the actions spurred from the assessment was the creation of a 25-person task force. Burrell’s Davis is among the members, which also includes representatives from companies, like People Centric Consulting Group LLC and Penmac Staffing Services Inc., and the higher education and medical communities. One of the task force’s goals is to determine the best use for $2 million designated by the county to be allocated toward addressing mental health and substance abuse in the community. The funds originate from the half-cent Greene County general revenue tax increase approved by voters in 2017, Towns said.

The task force has met a couple of times this summer, she added, and members are focused on finding ways to address crisis access for those dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Towns said the county has long had strong partnerships with Burrell, CoxHealth, Mercy Springfield Communities and Jordan Valley Community Health Center. She’s optimistic that through their recent work shining a brighter light on mental health and substance abuse, a path is traversable in the community to find help.

“Collectively, our partners involved in this process have elevated this issue and really given it the attention it needs and deserves,” she said. “I feel strongly that will help us move toward improvements.”

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