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New bell outside SPD headquarters provides help options for those with mental health illness

Susie Dains stands next to the Be Well Bell she painted. It's located outside Springfield Police Department headquarters in Springfield, MO (photo taken May, 2024).
Michele Skalicky
Susie Dains stands next to the Be Well Bell she painted. It's located outside Springfield Police Department headquarters in Springfield, MO (photo taken May, 2024).

The bell, painted by artist, Susie Dains, is part of Burrell's Be Well Initiatives.

A new piece of artwork outside the Springfield Police Department headquarters on E. Chestnut Expressway is designed to impact mental health in the city.

Surrounded by large planters filled with colorful flowers near the entrance to the building, stands a large bell. It’s painted to reflect a transition from dark to light.

The artist is Susie Dains, a watercolor instructor with Abilities First. She said the design was inspired by memories of playing flashlight tag with her brother when they were young and the comfort of that light in the darkness.

“It’s always important to be aware that we were always that young and afraid and scared when we were kids, and we’re still that way when we’re adults," said Dains, "but what’s important is to have that meaningful connection and to not lose hope when things look bleak.”

On the base of the bell is a QR code that provides details about where people can find care for their mental health needs.

It’s the 16th bell that has come out of Burrell Behavioral Health’s Be Well Initiatives, which launched three years ago.

"Each bell serves as a visual reminder of ending stigma associated with brain health and inspiring lives worth living and reducing the risk of suicide,” said Be Well's director, Bailey Pyle.

The idea stems from Mental Health America’s project following the closing of mental asylums in the 1950s, which involved melting down chains and shackles from the facilities and casting bells as symbols of hope and healing, she said.

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams sits on the Burrell Behavioral Health board and is also chair of the Brightli Board, which is Burrell’s parent company. It was his idea for the bell at police headquarters, but it was Captain Mark Foose who made it all happen, he said. Foose reached out to Abilities First, and its President and CEO Maggie Rollwaggen said she immediately thought of Dains to design the bell.

Williams said mental health is a personal passion of his. He believes that, if officers can’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of anyone else. He'soptimistic the bell will make a difference.

"The location is perfect because officers will see it every day – that’s one focus – but it’s also out here on the public-facing, right by the main entrance where the public’s able to come by and see it and have an impact as well,” he said.

SPD has a partnership with Burrell that allows mental health officers to respond with officers when needed. The idea is to keep people out of jail and get them the help they need. There are currently four co-responders, but Williams said that a grant from the Missouri Department of Public Safety will allow the program to double in size this year. He said the responders will either go with an officer or on their own when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis and law enforcement is notified.

Williams said police departments have long focused on physical health and well-being, which is important, but they also have to focus on mental health.

"Over my career I've seen the effects of mental illness on people and how much more debilitating and devastating it an be even than physical health," he said, "and it's something that, up until the last few years, people just didn't talk about, certainly in policing. Up until four or five years ago we didn't talk about it, and the stigma was real."

Williams said that bringing mental health out into the open and shedding light on the issue is "really important."


Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.