Clark Center opens new office building in Cassville

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

CEO: ‘We’re becoming much more physically health-focused in our treatment’

The Clark Center recently celebrated the opening of its new building in Cassville with a ribbon-cutting.

The occasion celebrated more than just more office space, but the opportunity to provide behavioral and substance abuse services to more people.

“It means increased access to services,” said Brad Ridenour,” CEO for the Clark Center. “We are firmly convinced that no one should have to drive to Springfield or Joplin to get good, quality behavioral health care; our goal is to bring those services to Cassville.”

Previously located in the Sho-Me Plaza, the Center has operated in Cassville for about four years, and in Monett for eight.

The Center’s roots date back to 1971, and since July 2017, it has served over 700 individuals in south Barry County.

“We’re close to the 2,500 figure when you take into consideration all of the counties,” Ridenour said. “I want to bring awareness that behavior problems are real, and there is help and hope. That’s my passion.”

The Center addresses everything from adjustment disorders, anxiety, and depression to schizophrenia and substance abuse problems.

“We serve an incredibly wide variety of conditions on an outpatient basis,” Ridenour said. “We serve chronic mental illness and children who have severe emotional disturbances [through our community psychiatric rehabilitation program]. We have a fleet of 43 caseworkers who go into the community.”

In the 1940s and ‘50s, some individuals meeting those diagnoses would have been placed in long-term hospital settings, Ridenour said.

“They would have been over drugged and unable to be effective, however, our goal is rehabilitation and to help individuals get to their highest level of functioning, including practical assistance to help them continue living on their own or with family,” he said. “Because of the support that we provide, individuals are able to live in a less-restrictive environment, which saves taxpayers a tremendous amount of money. The biggest goal is to keep them out of emergency rooms and psychotic hospitals.”

Addressing behavioral health concerns and life stressors are also somethings the Center addresses.

“Many behavioral health problems are brain problems,” Ridenour said. “Sometimes, counseling is all that is necessary [for certain conditions] to improve brain health, but sometimes, medication is needed, and sometimes, both are required. Some people come in and just need to know they are OK. The best thing for those people to do is to walk into our Open Access program in Monett and say, ‘I’m not sure if I need to be here or not.’”

Current statistics show that 20 percent of the U.S. population will meet the criteria for a mental health or substance abuse diagnosis this year.

“Some of that would be phobias, like irrational fear of dogs, planes, or clowns, for instance,” Ridenour said. “Those folks can go about life without difficulty because they can avoid those things.”

About 46.4 percent of the population, however will have a diagnosable behavioral health problem in their lifetime, that can take the form of mental health and or substance abuse problems.

“That means about 50 percent of the people you pass by in Walmart are likely to have some type of behavior health problem,” Ridenour said. “And nearly one in five that you pass any day are likely to have a behavioral health problem this year. The biggest problem is only 41 percent of that 20 percent of people in a year seek mental health treatment.”

He believes that stigma for mental health treatment is the reason but as that stigma decreases, more will seek treatment.

“In the Bible belt, we are taught to take care of people,” Ridenour said. “If we see a person who has a food or clothing need, or needs help with an electric bill, we are probably going to find someone to take care of that. But, because we don’t know what to do with people who have behavioral health problems, we are often the individual who passes by on the other side.

“One of the reasons we pass by is we think they might hurt us. Other reasons are because we don’t know what to do. I think people need to know that mentally ill people are victims of crime more often than they are perpetrators of crime.”

Stigma also exists for drug addiction.

“I anticipate that eventually southwest Missouri will see an increase in opiate use disorder problems,” Ridenour said. “That is such an epidemic. It’s amazing what pain prescriptions have caused.

To help alleviate stigmas, the Center made a change.

“Eight years ago, we put Clark Community Mental Health on the Monett and Pierce City buildings,” Ridenour said. “We did not do that on the Cassville building. We just put ‘Clark Center.’ This is how strong the stigma is. We’ve had individuals who did not want to walk into our Monett facility because the words ‘mental health’ were on the building.

“I try to explain that everyone has mental health just like physical health, and just like some peoples’ physical health is better than others, some peoples’ mental health is better.”

Another change is tweaking its approach to treatment to include the whole person.

“Individuals with chronic persistent health problems die an average of 25 years sooner than the average population,” Ridenour said. “If you have high anxiety for 40 years, how much pressure are you putting on your heart? And some individuals who have to take certain medications encourage certain eating behaviors, which might contribute to diabetes.

“We see a lot of people who die in their 40s and 50s from cardiac and metabolic problems. So we are monitoring peoples’ glucose levels and BMIs, because we’re much more cognizant now of the whole person and how mental health affects physical health.”

The Center accepts a wide range of insurance, along with Medicaid and Medicare.

“And we’ll take individuals who are unable to pay,” Ridenour said. “The services that we offer are not contingent upon one’s ability to pay.”

For more information about the Clark Center and its services, call 417-671-8075. A crisis line is available by calling 1-800-801-4405.

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