Springfield has lost a healthcare leader and advocate for the mentally ill.
Dr. Todd Schaible, president and CEO of Burrell Behavioral Health, passed away over the weekend following a fall at his home last week. He was appointed Burrell’s CEO at its beginning in 1977 and was the organization’s leader for nearly 40 years.
Dr. Paul Thomlinson, vice president of research and quality assurance, has been appointed acting president and CEO at Burrell. He described Schaible’s death as “the passing of one of the foundational leaders in mental behavioral health” not only in our community but in the nation.
According to Thomlinson, Dr. Schaible "was the most remarkable leader." He said staff would leave meetings with Schaible challenged and thinking about what their greatest strength was.
"And how you could deploy that in service of your own vision for your life and for your work, and he just had that incredible and unique, in my experience, very unique way of challenging people--asking questions that forced you to think about things differently," he said.
In fact, in 1985, Schaible had inscribed in granite on the front of Burrell's main facility, "Value What You Are and What You Can Become."
"And I really do think that he had the ability as a leader to inspire that in people--to value what they were, where they were but also to be looking for what you can become," he said.
As a person, Dr. Thomlinson said Dr. Schaible was a good friend to many. He took a personal interest in his friends--so much so that if one of them was sick, he would look up their symptoms online.
"And hand you a stack of print-outs and worry about you and give you all kinds of advice about where you could go, what you should do, and so he was an amazing friend who was selfless in so many ways," he said.
And Thomlinson said Schaible had a great sense of humor. He was a private person, according to Thomlinson, so not many in the community knew that.
"They saw him as a very serious visionary leader, and he was that, but he also had this side that could leave you giggling like a school girl," he said.
Dr. Schaible came to Springfield in 1977 as the founding CEO of the first community health center in Missouri, Thomlinson said. He created a comprehensive system of care that allows people with mental illness to remain in their homes.
"And to have jobs and to not be in state psychiatric facilities for an average of 11 years of their lives, which is what it was when he came here," said Thomlinson.
Schaible was "committed to creating a better place for folks with mental illness in the community," Thomlinson said.
According to Thomlinson, Schaible was nearly 71-years-old, and the board of Burrell had already begun considering specific plans for his retirement, which he had already announced. Thomlinson said he's stepped into "a very big pair of shoes," but he's confident that the staff and board at Burrell will continue to pursue Dr. Schaible's vision for it.
"I've been with him enough to know kind of what the founding principles and kind of founding values of Burrell and of Todd that we need to continue to find ways and means of making real, and I know that we have a team that will do absolutely that because this was a very loved and respected man," he said.