2024 News Releases



2024 Mental Health Champions to be honored

Three Selected to Receive the Awards

May 03 2024 - Jefferson City, MO —

Three remarkable Missourians who have overcome mental health challenges to make life better for themselves, others, and their communities will be celebrated on Tuesday, May 7, as the 2024 Mental Health Champions by the Missouri Mental Health Foundation (MMHF).  The event will take place at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City and recognize the following Champions:  Audrey Whittenberg of Fulton, Clifford Atterberry of Fulton, and Lilly Eikermann of Wentzville. MMHF will also present a “Lasting Legacy” award at the banquet to former Governor Jay Nixon for his implementation of mental health initiatives that have saved lives.

“These individuals have a meaningful role in their communities and promote the importance of self-determination, recovery, and education about mental health disorders, including mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders,” said Katie Andrews, Executive Director of the Missouri Mental Health Foundation. “Their personal stories as well as their accomplishments are inspiring.”

Audrey Whittenberg
Audrey Whittenberg's journey is a testament to her resilience and unwavering dedication. Diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses at 15, Audrey faced profound challenges, including suicide attempts and extensive psychiatric treatments. Some said she would never recover.  Within five years, Audrey earned a Bachelor of Social Work, came off disability, and began work as a Certified Peer Specialist at Fulton State Hospital. Over the next decade, she became a Licensed Master Social Worker. Audrey's influence extends beyond her professional accomplishments.  She shares her story with others in her community and she volunteers for several advocacy organizations, always emphasizing the possibility of recovery. Audrey inspires others by exemplifying the journey to recovery.

Clifford Atterberry
Clifford Atterberry's life embodies resilience, transformation, and an unwavering dedication to positive change. In 2005, he took a courageous step towards recovery, signaling the start of his commitment to personal development and a substance-free life. Between 2010 and 2014, Clifford's determination led him to pursue a bachelor's degree in human services, emphasizing academic excellence and leveraging experiences for others' betterment. Clifford turned adversity into a testament of resilience, evolving from a convicted felon to an advocate for positive community engagement. His willingness to share his recovery story inspires others, fostering awareness and encouragement for those facing substance use disorders.

Lilly Eikermann
Lilly Eikermann is a vibrant and positive individual diagnosed with Down Syndrome.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, she faced numerous challenges with virtual learning.  Her social nature suffered, and upon returning to in-person school, she was placed in a special education class, segregated from her peers. Unhappy with menial tasks assigned to her, Lilly expressed her desire to learn to drive and sell snow cones from a golf cart. With determination, her father helped her acquire a golf cart, and with the support of the community, Lilly established "Lilly’s Snow Cones." The business not only became a success but also promotes inclusion and advocates for accepting individuals of all abilities. Lilly actively hires people with disabilities, providing job coaching for their success. Her initiative has transformed her self-esteem and confidence. Lilly's hard work challenges the stereotypes about individuals with disabilities. Lilly's Snow Cones is not just a business but a symbol of awareness, hope, and a testament to breaking down barriers for people with disabilities.

Lasting Legacy
Governor Jeremiah W. “Jay” Nixon will be recognized with the Lasting Legacy award to acknowledge the substantial contributions he made to Missouri's mental health community.

To learn more about the Missouri Mental Health Foundation, or to get involved, visit www.missourimhf.org or follow them on social media. 

Contact:  Jordyn Hebisen, Missouri Mental Health Foundation
(636) 354-9416 or e-mail Jordyn.Hebisen@MissouriMHF.org


Governor Parson Proclaims May as Mental Health Awareness Month

Children’s Mental Health Week is May 5-11.

May 03 2024 - Jefferson City, MO —

Governor Parson has proclaimed May 2024, as Mental Health Awareness Month in Missouri.  The Department of Mental Health (DMH) in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Missouri, as well as other agencies, are committed to sharing resources, providing treatment and help to those in need, and promoting public understanding of mental health conditions.

Children’s Mental Health Week is May 5-11.  During this week Missourians are asked to celebrate by taking a moment to “ring a bell for hope.” Take a photo or make a recording of the ringing of a bell during the week and post it to social media with the hashtag #Ring4Hope. 

Did you know, statistics from NAMI show:

  • Approximately one in six children/youth (ages 6-17) experience a mental health disorder each year;
  • Fifty percent of those with lifetime mental health challenges first experience symptoms by the age of 14; and
  • One in five American adults experiences an episode of mental illness every year.

During the month of May, shine a light on the importance of mental health for the children, youth and all citizens of Missouri. For more information contact Debra Walker at 573-751-1647 or debra.walker@dmh.mo.gov.


MEDIA ADVISORY: Missouri Law Enforcement Officers gather to focus on Mental Health at the 10th Annual Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Conference

March 27 2024 - Jefferson City, MO —

The 10th Annual Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Conference will be held April 1, 2 & 3, 2024, at Margaritaville Resort, 494 TanTarA Drive, Osage Beach.  More than 600 law enforcement officers, other first responders and behavioral health professionals are expected to attend.  The purpose of CIT is to address the challenges that often arise when law enforcement officers encounter individuals with behavioral health conditions in crisis situations. 

We also recognize individuals across the state with various awards including the Dr. Rick Gowdy Legacy Award, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Community Behavioral Health Liaison of the Year, Champion of the Year, and Front Line Professional of the Year.  Very deserving professionals will be recognized during the awards ceremony Wednesday afternoon. More details are available on the event webpage.

“This conference brings first responders and behavioral health professionals together to determine better ways of serving those with serious mental illness or substance use disorders who come in contact with the criminal justice system,” said Sgt. Ashley McCunniff, Missouri CIT Council Coordinator.  “It results in safer communities and better outcomes for our citizens and our law enforcement officers.”

For planning purposes, please contact MBHC at events@mobhc.org if you plan to cover this event.


Opioid Settlement funding first annual report released.

March 01 2024 - Jefferson City, MO —

The Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) is the lead agency for reporting opioid settlement expenditures. The attached report covers settlement proceeds and expenditures made since the fund was established in April 2021.

Section 196.1050RSMo., established the Opioid Addiction Treatment and Recovery Fund, into which all monetary proceeds are deposited for the State of Missouri’s share of settlement distributions.  According to the Memorandum of Understanding between the State of Missouri, the state’s political subdivisions and the national opioid settlement administrators, each recipient of settlement funds must provide the General Assembly with reporting details of the following for the preceding year:

  • The amount of settlement funds received;
  • Details on how settlement funds were spent; and
  • Whether each expenditure fits within an approved use.

The first annual report as well as other opioid settlement information can be found on the DMH website pages specifically established for public reporting: MOopioidsettlements (https://moopioidsettlements.dmh.mo.gov/).

DMH has worked with the Attorney General’s Office, the Missouri Association of Counties, and the Missouri Municipal League to communicate settlement reporting requirements. See also the attached background information on the opioid settlements.


Rachel Plaggenberg – rachel.plaggenberg@dmh.mo.gov
Debra Walker – debra.walker@dmh.mo.gov


MO Eating Disorders Council announces two Eating Disorders Centers for Excellence

Burrell Behavioral Health and Ozark Center programs receive designation

February 28 2024 - Jefferson City, MO —

The Missouri Eating Disorders Council (MOEDC), founded in 2010, is pleased to announce that two Missouri community mental health centers have earned the designation of Eating Disorders Center of Excellence for providing integrated, evidence-based treatment to better serve their communities.  The Ozark Center Reconnect program and the Burrell Behavioral Health’s RecoverED program have both undergone rigorous training in the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders and are equipped to handle the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders in what was previously an under-served area for those suffering. 

According to Annie Seal, Chairman of MOEDC, “This increased access to care is an important service for rural Missourians. Prior to the Reconnect and RecoverED programs, care was consolidated in Kansas City and St. Louis, making complete treatment extremely difficult to obtain in Joplin or Springfield.  Both Reconnect and RecoverED deserve tremendous credit for making life-saving care available in their areas.”

Eating disorders (EDs) are common, disabling, and costly mental health problems that affect up to 10% of individuals in their lifetimes. However, there is an extremely wide treatment gap for EDs, and over 80% of individuals with EDs do not receive treatment even though eating disorders are the second most fatal of all the mental illnesses. Early intervention is important because untreated symptoms become more frequent, severe, and persistent over time, and early diagnosis combined with treatment intervention is associated with better outcomes. 

Prior to the MOEDC’s inception, there were major barriers to treatment for Missourians struggling with EDs.  Since its launch, the MOEDC has focused on positively impacting access to care throughout Missouri with two main programs:  the 360 Training Program and the Body U Program.  The 360 Training Program provides free training for healthcare providers in evidence-based therapies and promotes fully integrated care teams to meet the needs of those suffering.  

To date the MOEDC has trained over 500 healthcare providers in these therapies who work in mental health practices. Centers, like Reconnect and RecoverED, undergo the full curriculum and are trained to diagnose and treat a previously under-served population with evidence-based therapies.  

Body U is a free online program that is based on decades of research and is comprised of multiple evidence-based components, including an online EDs screening; a digital self-help program for individuals at low risk of developing an ED; a digital self-help program for individuals at high risk of developing an ED; a coached digital program for individuals with clinical/subclinical EDs other than anorexia nervosa [AN]; and referrals to providers trained by the MOEDC for those screening positive for AN. Since the launch of the Body U initiative in 2013, nearly 13,500 people have completed the Body U screen, with 41.4% (n=5,582) screening as high risk for an ED and 31.0% (n=4,182) screening positive for a clinical or subclinical ED diagnosis. This free program is available to all Missourians age 18 and older and can be accessed at BodyU.org.

The MOEDC is proud to have helped make exceptional care available at both the Ozark Center Reconnect and Burrell Behavioral Health’s RecoverED programs.  

Seal says, “These two centers are examples of what’s possible when dedicated healthcare professionals see the pain caused by this illness and are willing to do something about it. The MOEDC’s mission is to provide treatment in areas that were previously void of eating disorders treatment.  These two centers show we can fill the gaps and make a positive difference.  I genuinely believe these treatment facilities will save lives and mitigate extreme suffering.”

For more information contact Annie Seal at (314) 591-3341, annieseal@sbcglobal.net or visit Missouri Eating Disorders Council for more information on our trainings and online programs.


About the Missouri Eating Disorders Council

The Missouri Eating Disorders Council (MOEDC), under the auspices of the MO Department of Mental Health, provides eating disorders education, awareness, and treatment provider training initiatives throughout the state.  The MOEDC has two main programs: the Eating Disorders 360 Program that is focused on Missouri healthcare provider training and the Body U program that makes eating disorders treatment available in a proven, evidence-based online program. MOEDC aims to increase access to treatment throughout the state to positively impact access to, and quality of, treatment.

About The Ozark Center Reconnect Program – Ozark Center is based in Joplin, Missouri, and has been an entity of Freeman Health System since 1996. It has been providing comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults and families since 1965 in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from four states. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the behavioral health needs of the community and promote awareness of behavioral health issues in an effort to eliminate the discrimination associated with it. For more information, visit ozarkcenter.com or call 417.347.7600.

About Burrell Behavioral Health:
Established in 1977, Burrell Behavioral Health works with more than 40,000 clients across 25 counties in Missouri and Arkansas. Burrell has more than 400 licensed providers offering a full continuum of care through our integrated network. Services include individual therapy and counseling, addiction recovery, psychiatric and medication management, educational and therapeutic groups, crisis intervention, medication-assisted treatment, adult stabilization, case management, residential treatment, autism, diagnostic testing and evaluations and developmental disability support. Learn more about Burrell’s programs and services at www.burrellcenter.com.


2024-2028 Missouri Suicide Prevention Plan Now Available

Helping citizens prevent and lower the risk of suicide in their communities 

January 29 2024 - Jefferson City, MO —

A newly published statewide plan is now available to help Missourians prevent and lower the risk of suicide in their families and communities. The five-year plan was written by the Missouri Suicide Prevention Network (MSPN) in partnership with the Missouri Behavioral Health Council and the Department of Mental Health. 

Missouri continues to have a higher suicide rate of 18.7 compared to the national average of 14.04 per 100,000 people.  The Missouri Suicide Prevention Plan (MSPP) offers suggestions for what citizens can do in their communities to make a difference. Actions to take now include visiting Missouri988.org, spreading the word about 988, getting trained, and supporting community-led efforts to promote suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention care.

Read the Missouri Suicide Prevention Plan to learn how to make a difference. 

Raising public awareness about suicide risk and prevention is a top priority for the MSPN, which is a group of independent, non-partisan, volunteers and representatives from public and private agencies that lead statewide suicide prevention efforts. Additional priorities include supporting local coalitions and partnering with diverse groups impacted by suicide to increase awareness of suicide prevention resources. MSPN is willing and available to help communities put plans into practice. Email MSPN at admin@mospn.org for assistance or go to Missouri Suicide Prevention Network for additional information and resources.

For more information, contact Debra Walker at debra.walker@dmh.mo.gov or 573-751-1647.


Need to talk or get immediate assistance in a crisis? Help is available. Call or text 988 or chat with Missouri 988.