Freeman News

Ozark Center receives $1.6 million grant to expand services and treatment for abused children

September 24, 2012

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon joined Ozark Center and Freeman Health System to announce a $1.6 million grant-funded initiative to improve treatment and services for abused youth.

JOPLIN, Mo.—Missouri Governor Jay Nixon joined Ozark Center and Freeman Health System to announce a $1.6 million grant-funded initiative to improve treatment and services for abused youth. Awarded by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the grant will enable Ozark Center to share the principles of a trauma-informed approach with child-care agencies throughout the Four States. Since May 22, 2011, Ozark Center has treated 4,365 children; prior to the tornado that occurred on that date, Ozark Center was treating approximately 3,000 children.

A $2 million grant from the state—allocated only two months after the May 2011 tornado—provided the funding to establish Will’s Place, a healing center for children. Opened only eight months ago, Will’s Place already is poised for expansion.

“To say that Will’s Place has been a success from the moment it opened would not do justice to the impact it has had on the lives of children and families who are served here,” said Gov. Jay Nixon. “It has become another shining beacon of progress and recovery for this area. The excellent treatment and services that young people are receiving at Will’s Place are becoming known throughout the country. It is developing into a nationally recognized center of excellence in the field of child trauma.”

One of the most significant elements of the grant is the establishment of a screening database for child-caring agencies throughout Jasper County, including schools, pediatric offices, the Children’s Division, the Children’s Center, Lafayette House, Preferred Family, Head Start and Early Head Start, and any other agency that aids at-risk children. This database will ensure that no child is left to endure trauma alone and that no agency is unaware of the help these children need, said Phil Willcoxon, Ozark Center Chief Executive Officer.

This grant will position Ozark Center to train caregivers within agencies throughout the Four States to recognize signs of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, understand how trauma impacts a child’s life, and connect that child to community organizations that begin the healing process. The grant will also enable Ozark Center to pay for services needed by uninsured or underinsured children.

“Through this grant, Ozark Center will work to ensure that all child-caring agencies in our region are able to identify signs of trauma within a child and ask that single most important question: ‘What is being done to help?’” said Willcoxon.

Will’s Place houses under one roof all mental health services for children offered by Ozark Center, the behavioral health division of Freeman. The center treats children, from infancy to the age of 21, who have experienced any form of trauma, who have mental health symptoms, or who have behavioral concerns. Will’s Place offers children and their families greater access to experts in the field of trauma and behavioral health, treating children who have undergone all forms of trauma, tornado-related or not.

Will’s Place features play rooms with state-of-the-art electronic equipment that allow Ozark Center to monitor and analyze the behavior of traumatized children. Through Will’s Place, Ozark Center places an emphasis on educating and training the general public and personnel from schools, churches, and day care centers on trauma-related issues.

The Governor joined Ozark Center and Freeman in January to celebrate the opening of the center and returned again to aid in the announcement of the center’s expansion.

“Gov. Nixon played a vital role in the establishment of Will’s Place. He continued that support by backing Ozark Center in its pursuit of this grant to expand our services,” said Paula Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are truly grateful for all he has done for the children of this community.”

About Freeman Health System

Based in Joplin, Missouri, Freeman Health System is the area’s only locally owned, not-for-profit health system, serving southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, and northwest Arkansas. Freeman provides comprehensive healthcare and behavioral health services, including cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurosciences, orthopaedics, and women’s services, with more than 300 physicians representing 60 specialties. For more information, visit or, or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at

About Ozark Center

An integral component of Freeman Health System based in Joplin, Missouri, Ozark Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults, and families in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the mental health needs of the community and promote awareness of mental illness in an effort to eliminate the discrimination associated with it. For more information, visit or call 417.347.7600.