St. Louis Nonprofit’s Capacity Expands in New Headquarters Amid an “Exponential Increase” in Demand for Behavioral Health Services August 23, 2022

In a Nutshell

What: Rapidly expanding to meet the need that exists for community-based behavioral health services in its service area, nonprofit Places for People acquired, renovated, and recently moved into a new headquarters facility that has increased its capacity, resolved operational challenges, and set the stage for continued expansion in the years ahead.
Sector: Health Care
Location: St. Louis, MO (Soulard)
Size: 66,838 square feet
Cost: $16.3 million
Sources of Funding/Financing: Loans from IFF, Carrollton Bank, and UMB Bank; agency equity; capital campaign
IFF Support: $1.28 million equipment loan closed in February 2020; $5.32 million capital campaign bridge loan closed in July 2020
IFF Staff Lead: Stephen Westbrooks, Executive Director – Southern Region
Design: Chiodini Architects
General Contractor: ARCO Construction Company
Impact: Increased organizational capacity, as additional space and expansion of operating hours have enabled Place for People to provide 3,000 clients with access to high-quality behavioral health services annually, an increase of 800 clients since moving into its newly acquired and renovated facility.

“The need for behavioral health services, particularly since the pandemic began, has increased exponentially,” says Laura McCallister, CEO of St. Louis-based nonprofit Places for People. “At the same time, the stigma has been somewhat reduced in the last few years because it’s become much more commonplace for people to identify that they have behavioral health needs.”

Those factors, plus an ongoing federal demonstration project to increase access to behavioral health services, means far greater demand for the community-based behavioral health services that Places for People provides. And after moving into a recently renovated facility in St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood that has provided the organization with nearly 67,000 square feet of space and the capacity to bring all of its operations under one roof, Places for People is in the right place at the right time to meet community needs and achieve greater impact than at any other point in its 50-year history.

Founded in 1972 amid a nationwide wave of deinstitutionalization for Americans with mental illness, Places for People has long served as a resource in the community by providing an array of services that include individualized therapy, psychiatry, and treatment for substance use disorders, as well as an on-site pharmacy, medical clinic, and laboratory. Serving more than 3,000 people each year, Places for People supports St. Louisans of all ages with evidence-based care designed to help them effectively manage their illnesses and lead meaningful and productive lives.

In 2017, the organization became the first Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, a new designation by the federal government. Similar in structure to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), organizations offering comprehensive behavioral health services to qualifying populations are provided enhanced Medicaid reimbursement rates.

Already focused on providing care to clients who were chronically homeless, had experienced significant trauma, or had complex diagnoses compounded by primary health challenges, Places for People’s designation as a CCBHC further expanded its client base and created a pressing need to identify a long-term solution for its facility needs.

“We owned two buildings that were next to each other, and to expand our services and hire new staff after achieving CCBHC status, we rented space down the block in other locations that became available,” says McCallister. “That brought multiple operational and logistical issues, like connecting to our network and phone system. It was really kind of piecemealing things together until we could find a permanent solution.”

After searching initially for land on which to build a new headquarters, Places for People pivoted after being unable to find a suitable property in an area of St. Louis conducive to its needs. Seeking an existing facility that could be renovated according to its specifications instead, the nonprofit settled on an office building in the Soulard neighborhood that previously housed the Anheuser-Busch Employees Credit Union. With a loan from UMB Bank, with whom the nonprofit had an existing relationship, Places for People purchased the facility in 2018 while continuing to seek bridge financing ahead of a capital campaign to fund a $12.6 million renovation of the space.

Introduced to IFF through a member of the St. Louis Advisory Council, Places for People began working with IFF’s Capital Solutions team to explore its options. Due to the size of the project, a single loan to finance the entire renovation would have exceeded IFF’s $6.5 million loan maximum. So, IFF’s Executive Director for the Southern Region, Stephen Westbrooks, devised a plan that enabled Places for People to streamline the project and more quickly address its urgent need for additional space.

First, IFF closed on a $1.28 million equipment loan in February 2020 that made it possible for Places for People to purchase HVAC equipment critical to its renovations. With supply chain challenges contributing to a 16-week lead time on the delivery of the equipment, making this purchase before renovations began ensured the project could start as soon as construction financing was secured.

Afterward, IFF’s lending team worked with Places for People’s leadership to find an additional lender willing to participate in the project – making an introduction to Carrollton Bank, with whom IFF had partnered previously, and which ultimately provided the organization with roughly $7.2 million in additional financing for the project. IFF then closed a $5.32 million bridge loan in July 2020, providing Places for People with the rest of the financing needed to complete the project while proceeding with its capital campaign.

IFF was really instrumental in helping us navigate the sequencing needed to secure the capital for the project and in making connections to banks

“IFF was really instrumental in helping us navigate the sequencing needed to secure the capital for the project and in making connections to banks, since we knew it wasn’t possible to get the financing we needed from a single lender,” says McCallister. “That was a great resource, and I firmly believe the project would have been delayed by at least a year if not for the financing package put together by IFF and Carrollton Bank. It exemplifies IFF’s commitment to working with nonprofits to provide the support and expertise needed to make projects like ours possible.”

With its financing in place, Places for People turned its attention to executing a successful capital campaign as general contractor ARCO Construction Company brought the organization’s vision for the new facility to life. A gut rehab, the project included demolition and sitework; exterior improvements to the façade; thermal and moisture protection; a reconfiguration of the interior space; updates to the plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems; and the installation of new flooring, acoustical ceilings, lighting, and finishes throughout the facility. Designed by Chiodini Architects, Places for People’s new headquarters opened in December 2020, providing the organization with a vibrant, welcoming new space that has benefited clients and staff alike.

Spread across three floors, the facility includes dedicated spaces for the organization’s programming, which includes several tiers of behavioral health treatment for adults based on each individual’s needs, as well as supportive services such as help finding and maintaining employment, building healthy interpersonal relationships, and managing personal finances, among others. Elsewhere in the facility, youth and family services are offered, including individual and family therapy, treatment for adolescent substance use, crisis intervention, and psychiatric services.

One of Places for People’s goals for the new facility was to better control access to individual areas without sacrificing accessibility for those it serves, which has been accomplished by establishing separate entrances for adults and youth seeking services and locating all adult client-facing services in the front of the building. This layout means that visitors do not have to traverse the entire facility to access treatment and any programming they require, while also creating more secure work areas for Places for People’s staff.

The entire facility is beautiful and bright, with lots of natural light and splashes of color that make it feel modern and inviting. For the people we serve, it provides a sense of hope and sends a clear message that they’re deserving of that.

“The entire facility is beautiful and bright, with lots of natural light and splashes of color that make it feel modern and inviting,” says McCallister. “For the people we serve, it provides a sense of hope and sends a clear message that they’re deserving of that. For staff, it’s a more open, functional space than we had before. That’s made it possible to install sit-to-stand desks, for example, and we also have new amenities for them like an employee workout room with exercise equipment and a shower. Overall, there’s more opportunity for collaboration and camaraderie.”

A year and a half after moving into its new headquarters, Places for People is nearing the completion of its capital campaign, rapidly paying off the loans required to more quickly renovate the facility and looking ahead to its next expansion.

“The need for us for a new space was very significant, and we ended up nearly doubling our space,” says McCallister. “We’ve already grown to the point that we’re starting to think about how to add more space, ideally by establishing a presence in North St. Louis. We’ve also been on an aggressive path to paying down the loans and expect to be able to do that by the end of the year. That’s exciting, and we’re glad to be in a position to continue growing to meet the need that exists for behavioral health services in our community.”

To contact Places for People to schedule a tour of the nonprofit’s new headquarters, call 314-535-2310. To learn about additional nonprofit facility projects in Missouri financed by IFF, click here

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