Early Intervention: A Call to Action for Youth Mental Health

Healthy Ozarks
3 min readMay 15

By Clay Goddard, Southwest Region President for Brightli, parent company of Burrell Behavioral Health.

Last week was Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Because we all value the health of our children, it is an appropriate time to assess the changing mental health landscape that our young generations are navigating.

In my long career in public health, and in my current role leading the efforts of southwest Missouri’s largest community behavioral health care provider, the mental well-being of our citizens has always been a priority. But even for a grizzled vet like me, and other at Burrell who have long served our youth, the last several years have been unprecedented. The complexity of today’s mental health challenges — made worse by COVID, technology, and many other factors — have challenged the behavioral health industry and the health care industry in general.

Our youth are in crisis, and they were before the isolation and confusion of the pandemic. Let me share a few stats with you:

  • According to the CDC, one in six youth age 6–17 will experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • Of those, only 20 percent of those will see a mental health provider.
  • For youth who display warning signs of mental health need, there is an average of an eight- to ten-year gap between when those symptoms present and when they receive care.
  • Early intervention is critical, as 50 percent of all lifetime mental illness presents by age 14, and 75 percent by age 24.
  • Of youth who do receive mental health services, a whopping 70 percent of those services will take place in the school setting. This is why we have providers embedded in 60 school districts (and counting) in Missouri.

I love having data to support a course of action, and you can find a lot more information about the state of youth mental health in our 2023 Youth Mental Health Report, which you can find online at www.burrellcenter.com/report.

There is a silver lining I hold on to when I read such reports, and it’s something I’ve seen at every step in my career: We are making progress in getting this message out. Thanks to the work of mental health providers and advocates around the area and around the world, including the public health sector, people are beginning to embrace the importance mental health care, particularly among our kids.

Significant challenges remain — particularly related to workforce — but we are making headway. Our school-based team’s data shows significant reductions in reported symptoms of anxiety and depression in youth who engage in services. Anecdotally, teachers and counselors report improved behavior and academic performance from these students. Yes, wait lists for certain services can be substantial, both in the Ozarks and across the nation. Burrell and all of the health care organizations in our area are committed to meeting the challenge. We want all who care about public health in our community to know we are here.

I’d like to leave you with a teaser: I am VERY excited to say that we are approaching a formal public announcement of our Youth Behavioral Crisis Center, which is a 24/7 rapid-access unit for adolescents age 12–17 that will provide a round-the-clock location for teens in behavioral health crisis. This facility is made possible by a 2022 ARPA grant from the Greene County Commission, which is incredible evidence of our community continuing to collaborate to address youth mental health. This week, and every week, this type of partnership and commitment is worth celebrating.

Clay Goddard is the Southwest Region President for Brightli, parent company of Burrell Behavioral Health. He previously served as Director of Health for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

If you or someone you love is in a mental health crisis, please call 988.

Burrell Behavioral Health’s Crisis & Resource Line is available 24/7 to assist in a behavioral health crisis OR to answer questions related to other critical needs including transportation, housing costs, utility bills and more.

Learn more about www.burrellcenter.com or by calling us at 417–761–5000.