COLUMBIA − Burrell Behavioral Health has seen impacts in the low number of youth behavioral health professionals within the company.

"We as an organization are no different than those like us, that we have been experiencing a workforce crisis that really dates back pre-COVID," Jessica Obuchowski, senior director of community services in Burrell's central region, said. "And we've only seen a surge in demand since COVID with the mental health need."

Obuchowski said wait times at Burrell have been as long as 60 to 90 days for patients to receive appointments. 

This has led to creativity within the company by creating group therapy and other brief services to bridge the wait time for patients. The Youth Behavioral Liaison Program, created by the Missouri Department of Mental Health, has also provided a strong connection service for health professionals. 

It will continue to grow after Gov. Mike Parson proposed using $3.5 million toward increasing the number of youth behavioral health liaisons (YBHL) during his State of the State address Jan. 18. Parson's proposed budget also includes $4 million for certified nursing assistant (CNA) training programs.

The budget appropriations will expand the state's YBHL program by looking to add 27 additional liaisons across the state. A YBHL is a professional who forms local community partnerships with various youth-serving organizations to address specific behavioral health needs of vulnerable children.  

"Back in July, Burrell was awarded four YBHL positions across our system and we had a lot of applicants around that position," Obuchowski said. "That position really adds onto that continuum of care that we have created, while folks are waiting to get access to long-term services."

Consistent support from the state has helped Burrell with establishing its new Behavioral Crisis Center in Columbia and polishing its relationship area law enforcement.

Matthew Lemmon, Burrell's vice president of communications, said, the center is grateful for the governor's prioritization of YBHL positions and youth mental health in this year's budget.

"Gov. Parson, his administration and the state legislature have shown significant support for community mental health, especially over the last several years," Lemmon said.

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