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A Year of Resilience, Transition, and Innovation

To reflect on 2020 is to remember a time of uncertainty, grief, and stress. Through it all, our dedicated staff and those we served remained flexible as practices to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic adjusted. Our staff never wavered to deliver care, whether using technology to engage with those they serve, or making face-to-face visits.

We are grateful for their resilience and commitment to providing quality services to individuals and families living with mental illness and substance use disorders. We are also thankful for the guidance of our Board of Directors and management team in a year that not only featured a global pandemic, but also two monumental transitions in our organization’s history.

We are also thankful to you for supporting our mission. When we needed donations of PPEs, phones, puzzles, money, and more, you stepped up to help.

Although we were physically apart, we are thankful to you for being by our side every step of the way in 2020.

Places for People responds to the COVID-19 pandemic

Places for People devised a phased response to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the health and well-being of those we serve and staff members. This included a quick pivot to providing services primarily through telehealth methods (video and telephone), which was made possible by changes to MO HealthNet policies. The shift to telehealth allowed Places for People to remain engaged with the more than 2,500 individuals and families who receive ongoing services. (Read our initial COVID-19 response here.)

In the organization’s most cautious phase of operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, 80% of persons served were engaged solely by telehealth methods. Four hundred individuals required face-to-face interactions due to severity of symptoms or lack of connectivity to phone and/or internet.

Gov. Mike Parson visited Places for People in August to discuss the organization’s response to COVID-19 and the pivot to telehealth. (Read about the visit here.)

Grants from Missouri Foundation for Health, St. Louis MHB, Deaconess Foundation, St. Louis County Humanitarian CARES, HHS Cares, Incarnate Word Foundation, Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare as well as contributions from private businesses and individuals have helped our organization purchase PPE and enhance our telehealth resources. Additionally, MO HealthNet helped Places for People secure 300 Internet hot spots and 300 telehealth devices.

CARES Act funding has also allowed Places for People to transform a van into a mobile outreach center to reach people where they are.

Places for People is one of the providers participating in Missouri’s Show-Me Hope Crisis Counseling Program to support individuals and groups who have been impacted by COVID-19. The free, confidential service is available to anyone by calling 314-615-9105, ext. 397. (Learn about a refocusing technique here.)


Since March, Don Shipp and members of the Continuum of Care have delivered essential items to unhoused individuals in our community. See a visit he made to two encampments in April by clicking above.

Hear more stories of resilience from:
John | Jamie | Amanda | Berti | Kelly | Eli

After the death of George Floyd in May, Places for People staff members gathered for Health Care for Black Lives, kneeling and sharing silence and reflection for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in solidarity with health care providers all over the country as a symbol of unity against racism. (Watch the video here.) Joe Yancey wrote a letter to the community, and Places for People continues to strive to provide a trauma-informed experience for individuals we serve, staff members, and our entire community.


A new building, Board Chair, and CEO

At the same time Places for People’s Board of Directors and management team responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, they also handled some monumental transitions.

In June, the Board of Directors selected a new slate of officers, with Joe Kline beginning his first term as chair.

On July 27, the Board of Directors announced the selection of Laura McCallister as Places for People’s new President & CEO after an extensive national search process. Joe Yancey, the former CEO of Places For People, had announced his retirement after serving in the role since 2011.

Previously, McCallister served as the Vice President of Finance for Places for People. She has 21 years of experience with Places for People and six with Community Alternatives, which merged with Places for People in 2011.

“I am very excited about the future of Places For People. The Board and Search Committee prioritized leadership, core understanding of behavioral healthcare services, funding, advocacy, and the overall changing healthcare industry. Laura is prepared to help lead this organization through a new and exciting phase of growth and innovation.”

Joe Yancey’s last day as Executive Director was August 14. The previous day, staff members held a surprise farewell parade to celebrate Yancey’s decades of dedication empowering and advocating on behalf of individuals living with mental illness and substance use.

Yancey discussed his career on St. Louis on the Air in September. (Listen to the interview here.)

See highlights from the surprise farewell parade for Joe Yancey.

The surprise parade was held at the future home of Places for People. Renovation work at the former Anheuser-Busch Employees Credit Union at 1001 Lynch Street did not slow down during the pandemic.

On December 21, 2020, after 44 years on Lindell Boulevard, Places for People moved into its new home, which brings all services under one roof.

Learn more about this state-of-the-art health center that will provide those we serve with a safe, person-centered experience. The 70,000+ square-foot building has been thoughtfully designed to inspire health + healing. Our new health center was designed by Chiodini Architects, with ARCO Construction leading the renovation project. (Video by Paul Coletti.)

Places for People introduces new programs to meet community needs, Center of Excellence kicks off work to strengthen the safety net

Places for People continues to enhance services to best meet the needs of our community. Our organization received a three-year accreditation by CARF after a virtual visit in September.

Earlier this year, Places for People received a two year, $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand and enhance access to behavioral health care services, particularly for individuals in St. Louis City and County who are involved in the criminal justice system or those who are at increased risk of criminal legal system involvement. The JUSTICE (Justice-involved and Under-served: Treatment Integration & Community Empowerment) Project aims to engage more than 600 people in Places for People’s full array of services, including assertive outreach, outpatient therapy, outpatient substance use treatment, and adult case management during the two-year grant. (Read more about the JUSTICE Project here.)

The St. Louis Regional Center of Excellence in Behavioral Health Care kicked off activities this year, with funding from SAMHSA and Missouri Foundation for Health. The Center of Excellence’s mission is to promote high-quality behavioral health systems that increase the use of recovery-oriented, evidence-based services that improve access and human well-being. Dr. Gary Morse, who began his transition toward retirement in September, serves as director of the Center of Excellence. (Read more about the grant from MFH here.)

In addition to providing training opportunities during the year, the Center of Excellence hosted a kickoff webinar event in December that featured a keynote about recovery-focused, person-centered care by Dr. Robert Drake. More than 160 people attended the online event. The next webinar, “Current Trends in ACT Research & Practice,” will be held January. Register here

The pandemic moved several events to an online format, including the annual Places for People Golf Tournament in September. See Places for People board member and golf chair Andie Patton discuss the transition to a virtual event here, and learn why she was inspired to join the board here.

The Longest Night, held December 21, was presented online to remember 23 individuals who died unhoused in our community in 2020. Watch the ceremony here.

After a seven-month delay, the photographs in “Standing in the Balance: A photovoice exhibit on coping with traumatic stress and substance use,” were unveiled to the public in November in a storefront exhibit at Red Chair Studios on Cherokee Street. The exhibition featured work created by six individuals served by Places for People through a study using photovoice methods. The project sought to understand how individuals living with co-occurring traumatic stress and substance use safely cope. Read more about the exhibit here.

When our Outpatient Substance Use Treatment Team had its first graduation, they brought the celebration to Marilyn.


Members of Places for People’s Outpatient Substance Use Treatment Team celebrated Marilyn for becoming the first official graduate from the program. Teri Hicks, Integrated Health Coach, has been alongside Marilyn since she started services at Places for People five years ago. “It has been a joy to be a part of your journey,” Teri told Marilyn.


We look forward to connecting with you in 2021, and hope to be able to show you our new home in Soulard. We also look forward to Medicaid Expansion and increasing access to care for more individuals who need support for mental illness and substance use concerns.