PYSK: Mat Gass
- Photos by Mat Gass
President, Brightli Central Region
Burrell Behavioral Health (Brightli is the parent company of Burrell Behavioral Health)
People leader and advocate working to increase access to behavioral healthcare across mid- Missouri.
I have over 20 years of behavioral health experience in service to rural and underserved communities. I hold a bachelor’s degree in biology from Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo., and a master’s in social work from the University of Missouri, Columbia. I’ve been licensed as a clinical social worker for nearly 15 years.
Years lived in Columbia
Favorite recent project
The recent creation of a 24 hour Behavioral Crisis Center in Columbia, located at 1805 E. Walnut Street.
President, Brightli Central Region
Quote you live by
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well. — Thich Nhat Hanh
Favorite volunteer/community activity
Coaching youth sports
A COMO person you admire and why
Susan Hart, Reinhart Construction. As we have expanded and grown locations to meet the community need, we’ve asked Susan and Reinhardt to meet some extremely tight construction deadlines. In addition to meeting every deadline we have set during the new Ash Street Project Susan called to share people were showing up at this location seeking care. Susan scheduled a mental heath training for her employees working at this location so that they knew how to respond and get people connected to care.
If you weren’t doing this for a living, you would
I attended college at Missouri Valley with a goal of being in the medical field. If I hadn’t found behavioral health I would have likely settled on nursing or physical therapy as a profession.
Why you are passionate about your job
I, like everyone reading this article, have seen the impact of mental health challenges in someone I care deeply about. I believe behavioral healthcare is healthcare, my job is to help bring the resources and systems we would expect to see in primary care settings to the behavioral health space.
Why you are passionate about your company
Organizations like Burrell were born out of the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 to serve our most vulnerable community members. While we have grown to be one of the largest and most innovative Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics in the nation, we haven’t drifted from our core mission of service.
What people should know about your profession
The number of people seeking behavioral health services is at an all time high and the existing healthcare workforce is aging out. We need young people to know careers in the field offer great paying jobs that can fuel a personal passion to make a difference.
The next challenge facing your industry
In our field we say behavioral healthcare is simply healthcare. I want to help the community better understand the connection between mental wellbeing and the primary care environment. When we as a society stop separating treatment of the brain from the other systems in the body we get the best opportunity to achieve successful outcomes.
Your next professional goal
Deeply integrating recovery and substance use treatment services into the work that we have been traditionally known to provide here in Columbia. Adding Burrell Recovery Services at the location previously known as Phoenix Programs we have the opportunity to ensure that a person in Boone County has the ability to receive treatment at one agency without having to tell and retell their story to multiple service agencies.
Biggest lesson learned in business
The overall health of an organization can be seen by how team members handle conflict. As leaders we should find ways to encourage talented and creative people to be passionate about what matters to them. Pairing people with dramatically different talents and strengths and encourage them to dream big always yields the best results.
How you want to impact the Columbia community
First, I want to be sure that every person in our community knows how to access mental health treatment, that can be with Burrell or any provider that makes them feel comfortable. From there, creating early intervention and prevention efforts to address the 5-8 year delay we see for youth to access mental heath treatment. Youth accessing behavioral healthcare must be just as simple as those needing a primary care physician.
“I am incredibly passionate about the work that we do.”
When it comes to serving vulnerable people groups I have high expectations. Advocacy and education in these spaces can sometimes can be seen as pushing too hard.
What you do for fun
We are an outdoor family, you will often find us biking the KATY trail and trout fishing at Bennett Springs or Taneycomo
My wife Kimberly and I are the parents of seven children and 10 grandchildren. Our son Mathew, our youngest, is now a student at Rockbridge High School.
Favorite place in COMO
Anything that has to do with our parks and trails. Columbia is the most bike friendly city that we have lived in and we enjoy self transporting whenever possible.
Accomplishment you are most proud of
When we moved back to Columbia in 2019 I left the team that I built in Southwest Missouri. Most of that team is still doing the work nearly 4 years later, as a leader having your team be successful in your absence is something that I am incredibly proud of.
Most people don’t know that
Several years ago, our family had a small barbecue business to give our kids opportunities to develop their work ethic and customer service skills. When our kids got older we closed the business, but we still enjoy cooking competition-style BBQ for our extended family and friends.