Behavioral Health

Strengthening Missouri’s behavioral health systems.

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About the initiative

Behavioral health is a complex issue with complicated financing and service delivery systems. In 2016, we shifted our strategy from funding individual agency services and programs to focus on statewide and community-level improvements. Through this approach we gain a deeper understanding of what works and greater insight into the structural barriers limiting a person-centered, recovery-oriented system. By doing so, we and other stakeholders are influencing the field and providing support to reshape it.

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Why it matters

While mental illness and substance use disorders are key risk factors for poor physical health, advances in support and treatment options are making recovery a reality for a growing number of people. By building on these successes and supporting and facilitating emerging change efforts, we are helping shape a strong system that in the long term is more responsive, accessible, and available to those who need it.

Graphic of Behavioral Health partner organizations in Missouri

How we’re changing things

Rather than trying to address specific behavioral health issues with programmatic funding, our approach focuses on stimulating change at the systems level. As such, we often raise more questions than answers. We aim to influence change as we gain a better understanding of the current system, its strengths, and opportunities. We do this through analysis and learning, investing in innovative change efforts, and supporting emerging policy and advocacy efforts.

In partnership with the Health Forward Foundation in Kansas City, we commissioned the Behavioral Health System Mapping Project to better understand the assets and intersections of Missouri’s behavioral health system with other social and health systems to identify opportunities for further collaboration, problem-solving, and coordination.

Relatedly, in 2020, we established a learning cohort of local systems change partners to develop a shared understanding of common challenges and successes when transforming local behavioral health systems.

Other system-directed projects include piloting the Missouri Child Psychiatry Access Project, a national model linking primary care providers telephonically with child psychiatrists. The project is now going statewide through a federal grant. Learn more about the project by viewing this video.

22% of adults in Missouri – more than 1 million people – have experienced some type of mental illness, and 429,000 have experienced alcohol or substance misuse.


The percentage of Missouri adults not receiving necessary mental health treatment.


The daily economic burden of Missouri’s opioid crisis.

Missouri ranks 12th in the need for mental health services but 31st in access to such services among the 50 states.

Get in Touch

Reach out to one of our Behavioral Health contacts for more information.

Portrait of Jessi LaRose
Jessi LaRose, MPH
Director of Strategic Initiatives