Clark Center expanding in Monett

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Photo by Murray Bishoff New Clark Center A contractor for the Clark Community Mental Health Center began installing a roof on the former education building for the First Baptist Church at Third and Dunn in Monett. Clark has purchased the building and plans to make it the operations center for at least two of its programs. Clark plans to begin using the facility in late May.

The Clark Community Mental Health Center has started a major expansion in Monett. The 50-year-old program has purchased the former education building from the First Baptist Church, located at Third and Dunn streets and began building renovations last week.

"We are out of space," said Frank Compton, chief executive officer for Clark. "We've grown so rapidly that we need to expand. It's a true blessing to be able to move forward."

The 12,000-square-foot church building was constructed as classrooms, with a great room for large meetings connected to a kitchen. The church sold its main older building on the east side of the alley to another church but still had the education building available.

"We've been looking for more space for some time," Compton said. "We thought about buying out our lease on the Carver Building in Pierce City and building on the property. We weren't able to work something out with the city so we looked in another direction. This opportunity just came and hit us right in the face."

The space will enable Clark to restructure its facilities in both Monett and Pierce City.

The entire alcohol and drug abuse treatment program at the Monett facility, located north of Monett's North Park, will move to Third Street. Compton said the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) has grown from one to three counselors and a supervisor with plans to hire another staffer. Several other providers left the area, increasing the demand for services from Clark.

In addition, Compton said the health care home program that will remain at North Central has also grown. More office space is needed immediately for counselors, which will now become available.

The Pierce City office will see its psychosocial rehabilitation program expand. Much of the operation that has been housed in the lower level of the Carver Building will move to Third Street in Monett.

Compton would like to move the psychosocial program and pursue a clubhouse model to simulate interactive opportunities. Beyond that, he sees the new building as a place to develop a "life school" program, where clients can receive training and return to the job market in some capacity.

The south side of the Third Street facility, which has a fenced in area, will likely become a small work endeavor activity where clients will learn skills by practicing job-like scenarios. A contractor has started work for Clark putting a new roof on the end of the building abutting the alley.

If weather favorable for construction continues, Compton said Clark could begin operations in the Third Street building by the end of May. Ten to 12 staff members will work in the building, Around 35 to 40 clients a day will visit the facility.

The expansion will open other opportunities for Clark. Compton said plans are still developing on how to use the space gained in the Pierce City facility.

Brad Ridenour, the director of clinical services for Clark, spoke to the Monett Kiwanis Club last week about the organization's outlook.

Ridenour traced how Compton and two other mental health professionals saw the need to provide services in 1969 and secured grant money to begin the Barry-Lawrence Counseling Center. The name changed in 1992 to honor Tom and Mary Dell Clark, long-time board members.

Clark now has 90 employees and a fleet of 35 vehicles to transport its case managers to reach clients in Barry, Lawrence and Dade counties. A contract to serve clients in Greene County, providing a care coordinator in the Monett R-1 school district plus new state and federal programs have created new opportunities.

Under another new contract, Clark will track abusers of the medical system, such as families or individuals that chronically use hospital emergency rooms, the most expensive care. Clark staff will work with those people to try to get them to change their style of seeking care.

"The future looks bright for Clark," Ridenour said. "but certain unknowns will determine how we continue to serve our area. The biggest at the time seems to be what will become of Medicaid expansion."

Ridenour was introduced by Rod Anderson, program chairman. Kiwanis President Gordon Brown presided at the meeting.

The Monett Kiwanis Club meets at noon on Tuesdays for a meal and a program, usually at Happy House restaurant.

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