Burrell-Forest Merger Approved by the Higher Learning Commission


(Springfield, MO) – The boards of directors for Forest Institute and Burrell Behavioral Health announced earlier this week that they have received final approval from the regional accrediting organization, The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), for a merger between the two Springfield-based organizations. Under the terms of the agreement, Forest is now a subsidiary of Burrell as a sole member corporation. This merger capitalizes on the respective strengths of the organizations and highlights their shared mission to increase access for the growing mental and behavioral health needs of the region, particularly for the underserved and uninsured. Through this formal strategic relationship, Forest and Burrell are able to more fully and efficiently integrate the education, training, research, and work force components necessary to increase access to and provision of mental and behavioral health services.


The model is innovative in that it uniquely addresses the demand for experiential-based education and training environments which are a reflection of the rapidly changing higher education and health care delivery industries. Specifically, opportunities for training in integrated primary health care teams and evidence-based practice makes this partnership a potential model for training programs and health systems across the country. Additionally, it provides the foundation upon which a nationally recognized center for behavioral sciences research, innovation, and community education can be developed. The merger also provides for efficient maximization of resources, including externship opportunities for students, sharing of clinical staff, operational efficiencies, and collaborative grant funding opportunities.


Forest President and CEO Mark Skrade stated, "this is a new day for Forest, and for the education and training of tomorrow’s behavioral healthcare practitioners. This merger is a catalyst for a greater integration of science and practice, providing opportunities for inter-professional training and for the meaningful education, training and practice at the interface of behavioral health and primary care in the state and throughout the region.”


Burrell President and CEO Todd Schaible noted, "An area I am most hopeful that Burrell will be able to contribute to is the lead position Forest has already taken in training mental health professionals to address behavioral health concerns among patients with medical or developmental conditions. This is a critical workforce development need. For example, research conducted here at Burrell has shown that anxiety level is a strong predictor of mortality following a cardiac episode; but, all too often, other than medication, little is provided to patients to address such concerns. Many, many other conditions present similar needs, but this has not historically been the focus of training for mental health professionals.”


One example of the way this merger is already impacting the region is through an innovative telehealth grant which is increasing access to mental health services to elderly populations in southwest Missouri. In this program, students and licensed faculty from the academic programs at Forest work with Burrell’s licensed professionals to deliver services at the point of need via home-based tablet computers.


Founded in 1977, Burrell is a non-profit behavioral health care organization with over 900 staff, operating from 32 locations in a 17-county service area in Southwest and Central Missouri. They provide comprehensive clinical, educational, and consultative services to over 30,000 clients each year. Forest, established in 1979, is an accredited not-for profit independent graduate school with a staff of 56 and a student body of 281 masters and doctoral students training to be psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and applied behavior analysts. Through its Robert J. Murney Clinic, Forest provides over 10,000 client contact hours annually, many of which are provided in support of underserved or indigent populations.


The final closing date of the merger will soon be announced.