Mental Health Efforts in Ferguson

DMH and Providers offer trainings to schools and support to community

The Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) along with several provider agencies and experts from the Washington University School of Social Work offered trauma training to administrators, teachers, and counselors last week. The presentation at Harris Stowe State University was focused on preparing staff for students returning to school this week who are impacted by the recent unrest in their community.

At the event on Thursday, August 21st, Governor Jay Nixon addressed the more than 220 participants from six school districts, encouraging them to support each other and seek additional help and resources. Educators also had the opportunity to express their needs and learn what supports are available.

“The healing that needs to happen here is going to take some time,” said Dr. Keith Schafer, director of DMH. “We want to make sure that the citizens of these communities know that we are here for them in the days, weeks, months and years to come. The mental health community is pulling together resources to help schools, families, business and faith communities, as well as many others impacted by the recent and longer term issues that have become more visible to us all.”

DMH and provider agencies are developing an immediate to long-term behavioral health response to the events in Ferguson. Teams of mental health professionals will be in different communities to help address trauma and related issues. Specific strategies are being developed.

The presentation shared at the training last Thursday is available on-line at the DESE website:

Supporting Our Children Presentation

In addition to DMH, agencies involved include: Children’s Service Fund, Hopewell, Places for People, BJC, Great Circle, Behavioral Health Network, Crider Center, Preferred Family Healthcare, Children’s Advocacy Center at the University of Missouri—St. Louis and the Missouri Coalition of Community Mental Health Centers. For more information about mental health efforts in the Ferguson and North County St. Louis area, contact Debra Walker at 573-751-1647 or


Mental Health Commission votes to move forward with Redesign of Marshall and Higginsville Habilitation Centers

Task Force recommendations approved

The Missouri Mental Health Commission (MHC) toured the campuses of both Marshall and Higginsville Habilitation Centers on Thursday. The MHC unanimously voted to move ahead with the proposed changes and the redesign of habilitation services. The Northwest Habilitation Services Task Force presented its final report and recommendations to the MHC in July. The MHC reviewed the report and asked to tour both campuses in August.

Mental Health Commissioner Kathy Carter said, “I believe the recommendations meet the current and the future programmatic needs of the individuals we serve, as well as optimize the use of all available resources including our high quality staff, and best preserve the economic well-being of both communities.”

The Task Force was established by the MHC in September 2013 and charged to recommend a redesign. The MHC also proposed the Task Force be comprised of family members/guardians of the individuals now served by the habilitation centers, managers, support staff and direct care staff from the two programs, along with local government leaders and representatives of the two communities.

The complete report and recommendations approved by the MHC can be found at: 2014 MHC Approvals Final Report


DMH Suicide Prevention Project Participates in Zero Suicide Academy

First-ever Academy focuses on the Zero Suicide approach

Dr. Laine Young-Walker, Jacque Christmas and Deborah Fitzgerald

Missouri Suicide Prevention Project
participants: L to R - Dr. Laine Young-
Walker, Jacque Christmas and Deborah

July 16, 2014 – DMH staff participated in the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s first-ever Zero Suicide Academy to transform health care systems to dramatically reduce suicides among patients. In this two-day training, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), organizations learned how to incorporate best and promising practices to improve care and safety for those at risk for suicide and collaborated with the Zero Suicide Academy faculty to develop action plans.

Zero Suicide is a commitment to suicide prevention in health and behavioral health care systems and also a specific set of tools and strategies. It is both a concept and a practice. Its core proposition is that suicide deaths for people under care are preventable and that the bold goal of zero suicides among persons receiving care is an aspirational challenge that health systems should accept. The Zero Suicide approach aims to improve care and outcomes for individuals at risk of suicide in health care systems. It represents a commitment to patient safety – the most fundamental responsibility of health care – and also to the safety and support of clinical staffs that treat and support suicidal patients.

The Action Alliance promotes the adoption of “zero suicides” as an organizing goal for clinical systems by providing support for efforts to transform care through leadership, policies, practices, and outcome measurement. This Action Alliance priority builds on the momentum of the 2011 report released by the Action Alliance’s Clinical Care and Intervention Task Force, Suicide Care in Systems Framework.


Final Report to Mental Health Commission on the Redesign of Marshall and Higginsville Habilitation Centers

Task Force recommends one habilitation center in the Northwest and community programs in both communities

July 10, 2014 – The Missouri Mental Health Commission (MHC) received the final report and recommendations from the Northwest Habilitation Services Task Force at its monthly meeting today. The Task Force was established by the MHC in September 2013 and charged to recommend a redesign that would best meet the needs of individuals served and would optimize the use of all available resources. The MHC requested the report and proposal from the Task Force no later than August 2014.

The MHC also proposed the Task Force be comprised of family members/guardians of the individuals now served by the habilitation centers, managers, support staff and direct care staff from the two programs, along with local government representatives of the two communities.

Over the past 20 years, services provided by the Department of Mental Health’s (DMH) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DD) have progressed from care that was once primarily provided on large congregate habilitation center campuses to an array of living options in home and community settings across the state. During these years, many individuals who previously resided on the campuses of the Marshall Habilitation Center and the Higginsville Habilitation Center have opted to live in community neighborhoods of Higginsville, Marshall, or surrounding towns while still continuing to receive their services from state employees employed by the habilitation centers.

In September 2013, when this Task Force was established, the combined number of individuals living on both the Marshall and Higginsville Habilitation Center campuses was only 113 individuals, even though those campuses were originally designed for a combined total of over 1,100 individuals.

After careful examination of the information collected and presented during the tenure of the Task Force, and consideration of all options, the following recommendations were submitted:

  • There should be one Habilitation Center Campus in the Northwest Region and it should continue to be ICF/IDD certified. It is recommended this be HHC and be operated through the HHC Superintendent.
  • An eight-person intensive behavior support crisis program should be developed in Marshall.
  • The Marshall off-campus waiver program and the Higginsville off-campus waiver program should become one entity, known as Northwest Community Services, and should be operated through the MHC Superintendent.
  • All individuals should continue to have the opportunity to choose day program and/or work skills programs through NWCS and HHC.
  • All redirected resources should be used directly for the betterment of the DD services in the communities of Marshall and Higginsville, as opposed to addressing budget cuts or meeting unrelated needs across the state.
  • Administrative and Support Services such as Accounting, Personnel, Staff Development, etc. should be shared between sites, as appropriate. Satellite offices should exist at each location under the oversight of one department head, as appropriate.
  • Each employee whose position is affected by the changes should be offered a position to continue employment.

Additional details, other recommendations and the full report can be found at: 2014 Final Report

The Task Force worked diligently over the past nine months, to assess the two Habilitation Centers, their programs, and the communities in which they reside. It believes the recommendations meet the current and the future needs of the individuals served, as well as optimizes the use of all available resources and best preserves the economic well-being of both communities.

The MHC will tour both the Marshall Habilitation Center and Higginsville Habilitation Center campuses during next month’s meeting on Thursday, August 14, 2014.


New Developmental Disabilities Division Director Named

Huhn to provide leadership with budget and policy experience for DMH

July 10, 2014 – The Department of Mental Health (DMH) is pleased to announce Valerie Huhn as the Director of its Division of Developmental Disabilities (DD), effective September 1, 2014.

Ms. Huhn joins the DMH team with more than 14 years’ experience in state government. She began her tenure in 2000 with the Office of Administration, Division of Budget and Planning as a budget and planning analyst. She then moved to the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) where she became Chief of the Office of Governmental Policy and Legislation in 2003 and also served as a Senior Planner for Emergency Response and Terrorism. In 2005 Ms. Huhn returned to the state’s Division of Budget and Planning to serve as the Section Manager for Health and Human Services before becoming the Division’s Assistant Budget Director.

Ms. Huhn has extensive experience in working with state and federal officials to draft program policies and funding for Missourians who are aged or disabled. In the course of that work, she developed familiarity with multiple Medicaid programs, including those serving people with developmental disabilities.

As the Assistant Budget Director in the Office of Planning and Budget she has been of great assistance to DMH in developing annual budget requests submitted to Governors’ Offices and to the Legislature, including program funding for the Division of Developmental Disabilities. During those years, she has developed intimate knowledge of program policy issues affecting Missourians with developmental disabilities.

Ms. Huhn has bachelor degrees from Culver-Stockton College in Business Administration and History/Political Science and a masters’ degree in Public Administration from the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Ms. Huhn is replacing Bernard Simons who retired in March of this year.


Statewide Mental Health Services Impacted by June 2014 Budget Actions

June 24, 2014 – To put the Fiscal Year 2015 budget back into balance and maintain Missouri's fiscal stability, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed $144.6 million general revenue spending and restricted $641.6 million in general revenue expenditures. Read Gov. Nixon's full press release.

To overcome FY 2015 budget shortfalls, DMH will reduce its state General Revenue spending by approximately $34 million. The actions taken by the Governor’s Office and DMH attempt to minimize the impact of the cuts to existing programs for the 170,000 individuals served by the department each year.

  • The Governor has vetoed the 2% provider rate increases; the 5% rate increase for adolescent psychiatric services; and the developmental disability providers’ rate rebasing for a combined total reduction of $22,675,763.
  • The Governor has vetoed funding for an emergency mental health services pilot initiative in Kansas City, Missouri, totaling $2,500,000.
  • DMH will transfer the management of six DD Regional Offices in Albany, Hannibal, Joplin, Kirksville, Poplar Bluff and Rolla to the remaining DD Regional Offices, totaling $1,506,690.
  • The Governor has vetoed new funding for Autism diagnosis and treatment, totaling $1,300,000.
  • The Governor has restricted 10% of the current DMH core funding spending to five regional Autism projects and Autism Diagnostic Centers, totaling $1,137,118.
  • The Governor has vetoed funding to continue a model program for offenders with alcohol and drug problems transitioning from prisons to communities, totaling $1,000,000.
  • The Governor has restricted spending for the Psychiatric Crisis Stabilization Center in St. Louis, Missouri, now providing short-term inpatient crisis services for individuals with mental illness, totaling $750,000.
  • The Governor has vetoed funding in DMH’s core budget for a program for secure detox services in Northwest Missouri, not fully implemented, totaling $750,000.
  • The Governor has vetoed the funding of two new psychiatric resident positions at the University of Missouri-Columbia, totaling $620,000.
  • DMH will phase-down and close the state-operated Cottonwood Residential Treatment Center effective January 1, 2015. Cottonwood now provides residential services for children with mental health problems. The reduction totals $482,808.
  • The Governor has vetoed the funding for the Family Support Partnership Program, a pilot program in the St. Charles area to provide support for families of young children with disabilities, totaling $300,000.
  • The Governor has vetoed new funding for the Missouri Eating Disorders Council, totaling $160,575. The Governor has also restricted DMH core spending for the Missouri Eating Disorders Council, totaling $39,425.
  • The Governor has restricted spending for DMH Central Office Administrative Services, totaling $168,558.

The total reduction of all of the above items is $34,150,301 which is a combined total of $33,390,937 from the DMH budget as well as $759,364 for employee fringe benefits which is not directly included in the DMH budget. There is a total reduction of 157.17 DMH state employee positions.


Missouri Mental Health Director Receives National Award

Dr. Schafer honored as top community advocate in the country

Keith and Cathy Schafer

Keith and Cathy Schafer
at the National Council
for Behavioral Health -
Awards of Excellence
ceremony in Washington DC,
May 6, 2014.

Jefferson City, MO. – The National Council for Behavioral Health recognized Dr. Keith Schafer, Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, with the Inspiring Hope Award on Tuesday evening, May 6, at the Awards of Excellence ceremony in Washington DC.

Schafer was honored for his 27 years of service to the mental health field and for improving the lives of thousands of people with mental and substance use disorders. Specifically noted was his ability to connect data and metrics with real-life stories of recovery which has helped sustain essential services in Missouri.

“Dr. Schafer and his team are tireless in their efforts to serve some of our most vulnerable citizens, and to improve the quality of life for all Missourians,” said. Gov. Jay Nixon. “Today, Missouri is a better, healthier and safer state because of the work of Dr. Schafer and we are grateful for his continued service.”

“The Awards of Excellence pay tribute to those individuals and organizations that honor our legacy by their selflessness and their service,” said Linda Rosenburg, President and CEO of the National Council. “The honorees are our heroes, they have turned private pain into public passion, focused on people’s gifts and abilities not their disabilities, and blended business sense and common sense into community-based solutions,” she added.

Schafer was chosen for the Inspiring Hope award from a large pool of nominations by an independent panel of mental health leaders. As an award recipient, Schafer will receive a grant of $10,000 to go to a non-profit organization of his choice. Schafer has designated his grant go to the Missouri Mental Health Foundation.

For more information go to the National Council’s press release at


Developmental Disabilities Division Director Retires

Simons’ leadership and experience will be missed in Missouri

Jefferson City, MO. – Bernard Simons, Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DD), within the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH), is retiring as of March 15, 2014 after more than seven years of service in the position.

Keith Schafer, Director of DMH, expressed tremendous gratitude for Simons’ service. “Bernie Simons is an experienced, dedicated and compassionate leader in the developmental disability field, and one of the longest tenured directors in the history of DMH’s Division of DD. His vision and commitment to people with developmental disabilities has been unmatched. He implemented the Partnership for Hope program, a national early intervention model that created a basic ‘sea change’ in the developmental disabilities field, allowing the quicker enrollment of over 2,700 individuals to enter DD services much earlier to maintain and strengthen their functional abilities to live in their home communities. Not only does that allow them a better quality of life, but I also believe that it will avoid the need for more costly residential services in the future.”

Schafer also said that Simons’ leadership had resulted in dramatic reductions in the number of individuals on the state’s waiting lists for DD services that had existed for many years. “Bernie set the stage for Governor Nixon’s dramatic announcement in his January 2014 State-of-the-State message to the Missouri Legislature that his Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget recommendations would allow every eligible individual with DD in-home services needs to be enrolled in those services during FY 2015.”

While Simons is retiring from his work in Missouri, he is not leaving the field of Developmental Disabilities. He and his wife are moving to Baltimore, Maryland where he will become the director of developmental disability services for that state in April, 2014.

Schafer indicated that Jeff Grosvenor, currently the Director of Administrative Services for the Division of Developmental Disabilities, will serve as Interim Director of the DD Division until Mr. Simons’ successor is chosen.


New Efforts to Help Veterans Transition to College Life

The Student Veterans Center Project

Veterans Student Center Project Workgroup Photo

Student Veterans Center
Project Workgroup

Jefferson City, MO. – Missouri’s colleges and universities are seeing a rising number of students who are military veterans. Often the transition from the military to the classroom can be a challenge, especially for those who have been deployed or are first time college students. To address these issues a group of representatives from select state agencies, higher education institutions and service veteran organizations are beginning work on The Student Veterans Center Project.

The goal of the group is to create a guide that will assist Missouri’s colleges and universities to become more “military friendly”. The guide will recommend programs and policies to help meet the unique needs of the student veterans including: behavioral health, educational assistance, developing job placements skills and social support. Ultimately it would like to see campuses provide a place where student veterans can connect, a Student Veterans Center.

The Student Veterans Center Project is a joint effort led by the Missouri Department of Mental Health-Behavioral Health Division, Missouri Department of Higher Education and the Missouri Behavioral Health Alliance. Additional resources were provided by project partners who include the Missouri Veterans Commission, Missouri National Guard, Missouri Department of Economic Development-Division of Workforce Development, Veterans of Foreign Wars-Missouri, American Legion-Missouri, and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

The workgroup members are:

  • Keith Glindemann (Assistant Director of Veteran Services, Columbia College)
  • Mike Bamber (Program Director-Military Enrollment Outreach & Territory Development, Saint Louis University)
  • Jeremy McBroom (Director, Office of Military and Veteran Services, Southeast Missouri State University)
  • Amanda Woods (Military and Veterans Outreach Coordinator, Office of Military and Veteran Services,
  • Southeast Missouri State University)
  • John Matthews (Director, Financial Aid and Veteran Services, State Fair Community College)
  • Jeffrey Huffman (Director, Military & Veteran Services, University of Central Missouri)
  • Carol Fleisher (Director, Veterans Center, University of Missouri-Columbia)
  • Kevin Pelzel (ADA Coordinator/Assistant Director, Academic Resource Center, Webster University)

The group’s next steps are to finalize the guide on how to be “military friendly” and schedule a statewide conference to share the information with representatives from all of Missouri’s higher education institutions. For more information contact Jon Sabala, Dept. of Mental Health, Veterans Services Director at 573-751-2368 or