Freeman News

Ozark Center Recognized for Excellence in Behavioral Health

March 28, 2019

Award Applauds Efforts of Trauma-informed Care

Ozark Center, an entity of Freeman Health System, is the recipient of the National Council for Behavioral Health’s 2019 Excellence in Behavioral Health Care Management award. The award was presented March 26 in Nashville, Tenn., during the Awards of Excellence Celebration in conjunction with the National Council Conference – NatCon19. Ozark Center is receiving the award for applying trauma-informed design throughout its facilities.

Trauma-informed care helps caregivers understand trauma can be damaging to an individual’s mental, physical and emotional health. Through trauma-informed care, caregivers learn to recognize trauma symptoms, be sensitive to a person’s history of trauma, offer support and facilitate healing. 

According to the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, 70 percent of American adults have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives, increasing their risk for behavioral health and substance use disorders. Traumatic events can include major disasters, serious injury, grief and physical, sexual and emotional abuse.  

Ozark Center started implementing trauma-informed care in 2009 – becoming a steering committee member of the Missouri State Trauma Roundtable. Efforts increased following the May 2011 Joplin tornado.

“Many of the immediate effects of a major disaster are visible to the public eye as we saw following the Joplin tornado,” said Paula F. Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “The long-term psychological impacts of a major event are harder to see. Increasing trauma-informed care at Ozark Center was a logical step for our team.”

To create a trauma-sensitive environment, Ozark Center designed open reception areas in its new and remodeled buildings – no glass between the client and staff – and utilized other architectural means to preserve privacy. Cool colors, natural lighting and art are found throughout facilities, and have a calming effect for clients and staff. Furniture is arranged to increase a client’s sense of safety, perceived crowdedness and relationship to staff.

“A trauma-informed care approach aims to be sensitive to an individual’s experience of trauma and how it affects his or her healthcare encounters,” said Vicky Mieseler, Ozark Center Chief Administrative Officer. “We do so by encouraging interaction with clients in a manner that promotes choices and empowerment. Our staff follows the care seeker’s lead and helps them find choices, no matter how small.”

In addition to promoting choices and empowerment, trauma-informed caregivers:

  • Exercise cultural humility
  • Communicate with transparence and predictability
  • Use empathy
  • See multiple viewpoints
  • Impart respect

Approximately 6,000 individuals are served each year through Ozark Center’s adult outpatient mental health services. Services include psychological and mental health evaluations, individual and couples counseling, group and family therapy, biofeedback therapy, and psychotherapy. Ozark Center is the area’s leading provider of behavioral healthcare and has helped clients for more than 50 years. To schedule an appointment call 417.347.7600.

Will’s Place, an Ozark Center program of Freeman Health System, provides comprehensive behavioral health services to individuals from birth through age 21. To schedule an appointment call 417.347.7580.

About Ozark Center

An integral component of Freeman Health System based in Joplin, Mo., 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.

About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2019, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. The Leapfrog Group awarded Freeman the highest grade possible in the Fall 2018 Hospital Patient Safety Score. With more than 300 physicians on staff representing more than 70 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit