Mental Health Needs Addressed

July 25, 2011

Among the problems caused by the May 22 tornado in Joplin, was a shortage of acute inpatient psychiatric care beds in the state of Missouri. Joplin lost a significant number of inpatient adult psychiatric beds, with the destruction of St. John’s Regional Medical Center.

In addition, two of three Preferred Family Healthcare operating facilities in the Joplin community were completely destroyed. One, an adolescent female group home, the other, the actual treatment center where adolescents who suffer from drug and alcohol abuse could receive residential or outpatient counseling to address their problems. Six adolescent consumers and two staff members were in the group home when the tornado hit it.

Preferred Family Healthcare is a comprehensive behavioral health non-profit organization providing substance abuse treatment/prevention and mental health services throughout the states of Missouri and Kansas. The organization was blessed to have not suffered a single casualty of their patients or staff.

Preferred Family Healthcare was only eight weeks away from completing an 18-month building project in the Joplin community. Plans had been under way to open a 32-bed adolescent substance abuse unit and the agency was counting down the days towards that grand opening. “It was an unsettling feeling as we made our way through the chaos towards that building. We discovered that the tornado had touched down less than 1/8 of a mile from the new building and no damages occurred at that site,” said Mike Schwend, CEO/President of Preferred Family Healthcare.

Within days of the tornado, Preferred Family Healthcare was approached by the Missouri Department of Mental Health with a request. Would Preferred Family give up their new building to St. John’s? The answer was yes.

“It was one of the most difficult, yet easiest decisions I have ever had to make for Preferred Family Healthcare, difficult because it was a building that represented a great deal of hard work and dreams for many of our staff, easy because it was the right thing to do for the Joplin community” Schwend said.

Due to the fact that Preferred has the ability to assess and refer adolescents to other residential programs they operate in the state of Missouri, area adolescents suffering from substance abuse problems will continue to receive uninterrupted services, and will continue to be treated as outpatients in Preferred’s remaining building when they return from residential care.

Dr. Keith Schafer, Director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health said, “We are particularly grateful for Preferred Family Healthcare for the sacrifice they are making in giving up this terrific new facility in Joplin, to allow the community to quickly restore its acute inpatient psychiatric beds.”

“Reestablishing inpatient psychiatric services at St. John’s after the storm was identified as a critical need and top priority for St. John’s Mercy. With the purchase of the facility, St. John’s will be able to provide these services again within the next several months. We can’t thank the Governor, Dr. Keith Schafer and Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc for their efforts in assisting Mercy in reestablishing these services in the community” Kim Day, President of Mercy Central Communities said.


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