Burrell Behavioral Health breaks ground on new youth services center in Springfield

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 1:02 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2023 at 7:30 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Burrell Behavioral Health broke ground Monday afternoon for a new behavioral health facility that will serve youth and families around the Ozarks.

The Youth Resiliency Center will include a 24/7 youth behavioral crisis center, space for a variety of intensive outpatient programs, a partial hospitalization program, and a long-term youth residential facility.

Burrell says the new facility will provide vital support to youth aged 13-17 experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.

“Suicide rates, depression, and anxiety are on the rise. And together we have an opportunity as a community to make a difference addressing each of those concerns,” said Dr. C.J. Davis, CEO of Brightli, Burrell’s parent company. “The vision of the people at this event, these dedicated county, state, city leaders, are saving lives together.”

The new facility will be located on N. National Avenue, just south of Perimeter Behavioral Hospital.

Burrell says the first phase of the facility is funded by a $5.3 million American Recovery Plan Act allocation from Greene County and $1 million from the Department of Mental Health. According to a news release, the residential portion is funded by $5 million allocated to the project in this year’s Missouri state budget and administered through DMH.

The first phase of the Youth Resiliency Campus will take about 18-24 months to build. The first phase of construction includes the 24/7 youth behavioral crisis center. The youth residential section will follow a similar timeline.

“A lot of our youth are living under a different kind of microscope where the things they do and say can be saved and shared,” said Mitra Pedram, the director of the new campus facility, when addressing the role that social media plays in a teenager’s mental health. “That can bring a lot of stress to their experience as they’re just trying to be kids.”

Pedram pointed out that the purpose of the new Youth Resiliency Campus is to address some gaps in the community’s mental health system.

“One of those big ones is crisis,” she said. “We want to have a trauma-informed place where youth and family can go when they’re experiencing crisis. That could be suicide, aggression, substance use or even family dynamics and things that are happening in the home. And it’s not just intervention. We also want to get them connected to care so they can get some help with what they need. Then we have our partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs (that will provide family therapy and skill building) plus a new residential program. Right now we have a residential program at a brick home in Nixa but we need to increase capacity. So we’re going to have a 16-bed residential facility here on this new campus and that really allows us to complete that continuum of care whatever their needs might be. And if parents feel they need to bring their child here for a crisis or whatever services they need, no referral is required. It’s the same with law enforcement. We also hope to be an asset to them by stepping in when there’s a family crisis happening and be able to help with the mental healthcare piece of it. We are already imbedded in many of the school districts providing some great treatment options. This will allow our school-based clinicians to have more options for those kiddos that might need them.”

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams, who is the board chair of Burrell’s parent company, is very excited about the project because his police department has already brought in mental health counselors to help out during calls. But this was a part of addressing the problem that’s been missing.

“That’s been my passion for the last 10 years to find a spot for law enforcement to take people in a mental health crisis that’s not to jail or to a hospital,” he explained. “Our partners at Cox and Mercy liked the idea too of keeping people out of the ER and out of jail. For us it will mean we won’t have the revolving door of someone you deal with all the time and can’t get them connected with anything. When we interact with a juvenile right now, if we can’t connect them with a parent or guardian and juvenile won’t take them unless it’s a serious crime, we don’t have any place to take them. So that’s what I love about this. It’s a wraparound. It’s gonna cover all services and be available 24 hours-a-day. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Williams was also asked what he’s noticed about the effect of social media on the mental health of young people.

“People can be so hurtful behind a keyboard,” he pointed out. “It’s so immediate and there’s no filter or fact-checking. You couple that with the lack of personal interaction and that’s what is contributing to all these mental health issues. And just speaking as a parent and concerned citizen, I say parents have got to be involved in their kids lives. They’ve got to know who they’re hanging out with, who they’re talking to, what social media sites they’re visiting. Disconnect them from that at some point and have a one-on-one conversation with your son or daughter. Parents will know innately when something’s wrong if they’re connected and have that relationship. If they are disconnected and letting their kids find their own way, they’re going to end up here (at the youth mental health center). So I would encourage parents to be absolutely engaged in their kids lives.”

The importance of the youth mental health center was echoed by Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon, who told a crowd of dignitaries at the groundbreaking ceremonies that there was a reason the county commissioners chose this project as their first-and-largest allotment of ARPA funding.

“As we poured over the applications to solve numerous problems in communities around our county, many of those had the root cause, in our opinion, in the lack of mental health services,” he said. “We have a common term in our community that we want to ‘go upstream’ and we felt like it would be wise to essentially multiply the dollars we had by ‘going upstream’ to solve many more symptoms than what we had funding to address. And by getting the state and Burrell’s partners involved, we were literally able to turn $5.3 million into over $14 million. The impact in the communities we serve will be priceless. It was a no-brainer.”

When asked his thoughts on social media and the effect it’s having on youth mental health problems?

“We’re more connected as a society than ever before,” he said. “But we’re also more isolated than ever before. That is a very difficult thing for your young people to deal with and it presents a very serious set of challenges. We’ve got to change that paradigm and I think this will help do that. That is our hope. We see the results every day of the lack of mental health in many aspects of our community. We’re trying to solve it with a creative solution because we’re really decades behind trying to solve it in this country.”

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