Springfield Business Journal: What would you identify as the keys to growth at Burrell?
C.J. Davis: There are two competing reasons. The first is the overall demand in behavioral health and addiction services. Take for example, the present COVID situation. On any normal day, you have about 20% of Americans saying they have a personal concern about mental health. During COVID, we’re reaching percentages we’ve never seen before, around 75%. I think the demand in our community and the decrease in stigma has created a platform for us to meet the community where it is right now. The other thing is, over the course of time, our organization has been way more mission committed than ever before. One of those priorities is simply making sure that we’re seen as the behavioral health expert in our community.
SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Davis: First of all, locating the appropriate qualified and mission-committed staff. We are an industry facing a workforce crisis, with a large number of providers over the age of 55. At any given time, we have 200-300 positions to be filled. I could probably hire 400 people, if they were out there. The other thing is managing the expense side of the income statement. Growth is a great thing, but all of the sudden you need more office space, more supplies, more technology.
SBJ: What are the opportunities you’ve seen with the growth?
Davis: Creating more remote and virtual care is something that will propel us moving forward. The other thing is – there’s an old saying in community mental health that goes something like, ‘We’re the community mental health center of the Medicaid population.’ I think what’s happening in Springfield is we’re becoming the community health center of the population. We’re exploring other service venues, such as being the provider of choice in an employee assistance program for employers. It allows us to look at other markets. We’re diversifying our payer sources and our portfolio and entering into spaces that community health centers have not entered into.
SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Davis: It’s sustainable. We look at our market share, market penetration: You take the total population and multiple that by 20%, which is the general prevalence rates of mental health conditions. One out of every five Americans has a mental health condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As an example, we could service 60,000 people in Greene County. Well, we service 40,000-45,000 people across 17 counties in Missouri. So, we have 2 million lives we’re responsible for; we could probably service 200,000 people. The growth opportunities will always exist in our space.
SBJ: Where is the tipping point?
Davis: Two months ago, I’d say I don’t see one. The tipping point is the unexpected pandemics that hit – and what that will mean for reimbursement models with payers. That’s probably the biggest threat – what will happen to a payment system in the middle of a crisis? We argue there is no better time to fund behavioral services than in a crisis.
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.