The tragedy that occurred in Joplin in May 2011 is back in the news as its anniversary rolls around. This week, President Obama delivered the commencement address to the 2012 graduating class of Joplin High School. The twister arrived just after the 2011 graduation ceremony, completely destroying the school. The new school is supposed to open in August 2014, according to the school system’s website.

This post describes a new film released by the Missouri Foundation for Health on May 17. It shows how people and organizations in the small southwest Missouri city of Joplin are collaborating “to build a stronger, healthier community,” the funder says.

The sixteen-minute film is titled “Who We Are Now—Joplin: One Year Later.” In case you somehow missed this disaster or have forgotten what it is all about, an Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale) 5 tornado hit this community—161 people died, and $2 billion in damage resulted, the funder said.

The Missouri Foundation for Health, a statewide philanthropy based in St. Louis, produced this film containing interviews with survivors of the storm, health professionals (including the executive director of the Joplin Community Clinic and the vice president of clinical services at the Ozark Center, which provides behavioral health services), and other key community figures.

Vicky Mieseler of the Ozark Center mentioned in the film that there has been an 80–100 percent increase in drug and alcohol use (not abuse, she made clear). And now, with the approaching storm season, there is a sense of anxiety among residents. Mieseler also pointed out the “compassion fatigue” experienced by medical professionals, emergency responders, mental health workers, and others: they need help also, she said.

Barbara Bilton, executive director of Joplin Community Clinic, said that people lost medicines, crutches, and other supplies during the storm. Mieseler mentioned that groups were working together in Joplin following the tragedy that may not have been before.

In the film, a Joplin Family YMCA staffer described the Human Services Campus, set up near where Joplin residents are living in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers. Here, residents can access services, such as immunizations or mental health care.

And as the film closed, Bilton remarked on the importance of collaboration. She said that because of it, the community is going to be “far stronger,” as will be individuals who live there.


The old St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin was destroyed during the tornado. According to a foundation spokesperson, a temporary Mercy Hospital-Joplin (its new name)—“a series of twenty-eight modular buildings. . . that are providing full hospital services, including surgeries”—is up and running. Construction has started on a new facility, but it will not be completed for a couple of years.

Freeman Hospital survived the storm. Today, it held a memorial ceremony, at which Gov. Jay Nixon (D) spoke.

Foundation’s film released in 2011

In 2011 the Missouri Foundation for Health released a film on how its emergency funding for Joplin’s needs “immediately after the tornado enabled health providers to cope with residents’ mental and physical health needs,” according to an e-alert.

Filmmaker and creative director Brandon Wade, who has won awards for his work, is directing the Missouri Foundation for Health’s 2012 series of films called REEL CHANGE. He also worked on the 2011 series called REEL Stories.

Missouri Foundation for Health Grant Making

See this press release containing the list of approximately $230,000 in emergency grants that the foundation awarded in early June 2011 to help the people of Joplin. The foundation subsequently awarded $498,299 in grants in August 2011, according to a spokesperson. Those entities awarded grants in August included Freeman Health System, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Missouri, the Ozark Center, and St. John’s Regional Medical Center. The grant to St. John’s was to “help the hospital recover unreimbursable costs of free treatment provided to tornado victims in the week following the disaster.”