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Meeting the demand for mental healthcare in mid-Missouri

How Columbia’s non-profit community mental health center creates access to care

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In 2021, Burrell Behavioral Health served 86% more clients compared to 2020. That means a lot more people accessed care for prevention and treatment of mental illness in Columbia. To provide the compassionate care the community deserves, the team that leads the community safety net organization has been doubling down on their mission to form meaningful connections and inspire hope in Boone County.

The non-profit is dedicated to offering individualized and accessible care, aiming to meet the community where they are. This could be at school, a community event or online. Leadership at Burrell also cite integration of services and program innovation in its effort to create more doors to accessing care. They know that this also requires a workforce that is nurtured and grown from within to support the urgent and increasing behavioral health needs of central Missouri.

Here’s a more specific look at how Burrell has created a larger door – as CEO C.J. Davis put it – to meeting the demand for mental health care in mid-Missouri.

Meeting the community where they are
An important and consistent way to be accessible to the community is the offering of crisis intervention by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Burrell’s Crisis Hotline, staffed by trained experts, is a free resource anyone can call. It takes effort and constant nurturing in the community to make sure the number is a known resource.

One of the ways Burrell works to get the word out about the free Crisis Hotline is by sponsoring and attending community events. Devoting resources like staff time to meet people around Boone County at their events creates more opportunities for individuals to learn about Burrell and their wide array of services. Some examples include the Burrell Pharmacy administering vaccinations out in the community, on the weekends, such as being set up at a faith-based community room and during Mid-Missouri Pridefest. Burrell’s Youth Services department has sponsored family events and the behavioral health organization’s Be Well Community offers intentional self-care and connection online through social media.

Funded by a suicide prevention grant, Burrell began offering the ONE suicide prevention education program, which provides trainings and support to businesses and organizations at no cost. The program is another way the community mental health center educates and empowers mid-Missouri residents with ways to help themselves and their neighbors.

“We want to give them the skills to become therapeutic helpers for their colleagues and their loved ones," Vice President of Outpatient and Access Services Brandan Gremminger said in an interview with KOMU 8 news.

Being more visible in the community has resulted in an increase in mental health awareness, which has contributed to the uptick in those seeking out services from Burrell.

There is no wrong door to seeking care
Burrell believes physical and mental health are intertwined. Burrell believes access to an array of healthcare services is possible when you find ways to partner and integrate them. For example, a Burrell Licensed Clinical Social Worker became a permanent part of the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) service team at Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services in 2021. The new partnership makes it easier for mothers and young children to connect with mental health care.

Burrell knows that for those with a diagnosed serious mental illness, life expectancy is reduced up to 25 years, largely because of untreated physical ailments. Perhaps you are a Burrell client and you do not have a primary care physician to catch those ailments. Why should you not be able to receive mental and physical health services in a single location? Burrell and Preferred Family Healthcare (PFH) received approval in 2021 to do just that and announced the formation of a whole-health space at their Stephens Lake Clinic in Boone County.

This is the work of integration. Creating access to care with a “no wrong door” approach. It means there are more ways to answer the demand for care.

An expert workforce
That free Crisis Hotline previously mentioned is staffed by experts, who might be just the first of many staff members someone may interact with at Burrell. The Crisis Hotline is available, not just for Burrell clients, but community members and Burrell staff members as well. Taking care of those caretakers is another way Burrell works to continue meeting the demand for services.

Current Burrell staff often receive recognition, are offered training and can now take advantage of the new company wellness program. Notably, the non-profit raised hourly minimum pay to $15 across the board. To retain and grow their experts from within, Burrell provides $10,000 in tuition assistance to staff seeking social work degrees from the University of Missouri School of Social Work and Stephens College. In addition to staying competitive with things such as compensation and benefits, the recruitment team, in partnership with human resources, also works to attract staff. In 2021, Burrell added 25 new licensed providers to help meet the growing mental health needs of the Central Missouri community in person and via telehealth.

Demand for services will continue
Even when demand for their services is higher than ever, Burrell continues to offer many ways to get help, including telehealth, in-home visits, Burrell clinic locations, and partnerships with many K-12 schools and colleges. The creation of a comprehensive, 24/7 Behavioral Crisis Center in Columbia is the organization’s latest vision to offer help and meet demand. It is Burrell’s answer to the community’s need for around-the-clock crisis services for those who are experiencing mental health or substance use crises. The facility will create a diversion from jails and hospital emergency departments, while saving the community money.

“We need a Behavioral Crisis Center. We need to balance the impact on our hospital systems and our law enforcement,” said Mat Gass, President, Burrell Behavioral Health Central Region.

Since 2006, Burrell Behavioral Health has been committed to making care and treatment accessible to anyone in and around Columbia. Moving forward, Burrell will continue to increase awareness about mental health, expand access to care and honor its commitment to the community.


24-Hour Crisis Line

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health or substance-use crisis, please call our toll-free 24-hour telephone line. Our team can help provide immediate assistance.

Southwest Missouri: 1-800-494-7355

Central Missouri: 1-800-395-2132

National Help Line: Call or Text 988