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2024 Health Care Outlook

2024 Health Care Outlook Panel

2024 Health Care Outlook a discussion on mental and behavioral health

On May 15, Springfield Business Development Corporation (SBDC), the economic development arm of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, convened over 275 business and healthcare leaders for the 2024 Health Care Outlook. The event focused on the serious and growing issue of mental and behavioral health in the Springfield region.

Moderator Wade Shelton of APO Community Health Center led a panel discussion featuring:

  • Clay Goddard, President, Southwest Region, Brightli Behavioral Health
  • Katie Towns, Director of Public Health, Springfield-Greene County Health Department
  • Tim Dygon, Executive Vice President, The Arc of the Ozarks

The panelists shared insights on mental and behavioral health topics and initiatives. Towns highlighted the pandemic’s role in exacerbating mental health issues, referencing research conducted by the Springfield-Greene County Health Department in 2023 identifying mental health and substance abuse as top community priorities.

“This conversation is helping to change the game because we have not been able to sit and have this tough, hard and uncomfortable conversation,” said Towns. “We are making progress, pushing forward and this is a huge first step.”

Goddard discussed Brightli’s proactive approach addressing the gap in care for adolescents in our community, as facilities often only serve adults over the age of 18, leaving adolescents in need of mental or behavioral health services.

Dygon highlighted The Arc of the Ozarks' longstanding commitment to serving individuals on the autism spectrum since 1964. To address the growing need for diagnostic services, The Arc has developed a new Autism and Neurodevelopmental Center.

“We know there is an incredible need in this area and The Arc of the Ozarks wanted to step up to the plate,” said Dygon, citing the national prevalence rate for autism in eight-year-olds has risen to 1 in 36, a staggering 317 percent increase since 2000. The center provides autism specialists, family therapy, physical therapy and child psychiatry.

Goddard highlighted the mental health co-responder program with the Springfield Police Department. These co-responders go out with Springfield police officers to assist in behavioral health issues on the frontlines. With over 751 calls within the first year answered by co-responders it has allowed Springfield police to focus on increasing public safety in other ways.

“We really try to make sure any time we interact with an individual that we get them involved in a treatment plan and on a healing pathway,” said Goddard.

Suicide prevention emerged as a key concern, with the Ozarks reporting significantly higher rates than state and national averages. Goddard encouraged employer participation in the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline program. Towns discussed the Health Department’s launch of the awareness campaign called “Hey man, you good?” in partnership with Community Partnership of the Ozarks targeting the elevated risk of suicide among men. This campaign seeks to address the statistically higher suicide rates in males in our community. Men ages 45 and above are at the highest risk according to Towns.

“This campaign really gets at the heart of the issue, which is to have the conversation,” said Towns. “So many people suffer in silence, so we want to provide the context that it is okay to have the conversation and to have feelings you don’t understand.”

The 2024 Health Care Outlook challenged attendees and business leaders to consider how their organization can support solutions that move the needle in the right direction and help the Springfield region thrive and grow. This vital discussion is part of SBDC’s broader series of Outlook events, demonstrating a commitment to improving the economic health and quality of life for the Springfield community.

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