Burrell and OTC partner to fill Missouri’s high need for behavioral health workers

KOLR10 Daybreak

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A partnership that works for a healthcare system in need and students who want to get right to work.

This fall, Burrell Behavioral Health gave $10,000 in scholarship money to Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) for its behavioral health support program.

The program helps prepare students for the world of behavioral health and gives them a head start on becoming a caseworker in Missouri.

“I’ve always been passionate about mental health advocacy and awareness,” said OTC student Adam McConnell.

McConnell is in his second year of the program.

“Everywhere we go, people are struggling with substance issues and mental health issues,” McConnell said. “So, for me, this program was a way to turn that passion into action and help people.”

McConnell is studying to become a caseworker, which would normally require four years of school. But in 2016, Missouri started facing a need in the profession. Amy Shelley with OTC says a study showed a 40-percent turnover rate for caseworkers in the state.

The situation forced the Missouri Department of Mental Health to act.

“They came to us and asked us to create targeted training,” Shelley said.

OTC has offered a two-year program ever since. Katelyn Harrison completed the course in August.

“[The two years] is what drew me to this program,” Harrison said. “I wanted to find a career I was passionate about, but also start working.”

In the course, Shelley says students get to practice in OTC’s simulation center.

“They can work with actors on their skills, communication, how do we handle different problems?”

The program also offers classroom presentations and hands-on practicum hours with a local provider.

“Especially Burrell,” Shelley said. “They have hired a large majority of our students.”

And Burrell is investing in this partnership. The center has previously given $4,000 in scholarships for the program. It just recently chipped in another $10,000.

“This will assist them,” Shelley said. “Develop that relationship even further between the students and Burrell.”

Students in the behavioral health support program will be able to apply for Burrell’s new scholarship in the Spring 2022 semester. Scholarships are $500 per semester, or $1000 per school year.

Shelley says OTC’s program has a turnover rate as low as five percent, and everyone in the program finds a job after graduation.

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