Neligh Native Honored

Neligh native honored for behavioral health leadership in Nebraska.



Michael Rice, RN, PhD, a native of Neligh, Neb., is the first recipient of BHECN’s Award for Distinguished Service.

The award is given for inspirational leadership, service, advocacy and passion for behavioral health in Nebraska. He is recognized for his skill as a teacher, dedication to research, vision in integrating technology and health services delivery, and commitment to care for rural residents.

Dr. Rice formerly served as associate clinical director of BHECN and was a professor and psychiatric nurse practitioner at the UNMC College of Nursing. He accepted a new position in summer 2013 as professor and endowed chair at the University of Colorado College of Nursing on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver.

 “As one of BHECN’s founding members, Michael provided tremendous leadership to the organization through his expertise in telehealth, policy, workforce development and commitment to rural Nebraska,” said Howard Liu, MD, BHECN medical director and UNMC director of faculty development. “He has been an innovator in social media and e-learning as well as a mentor to many students and faculty members.” 

Dr. Liu also praised Dr. Rice and his colleagues for developing an innovative UNMC grant program that increased by 43 the number of psychiatric nurse practitioners serving Nebraska. Through web-based courses and live, online interaction with faculty and other students, the grant enabled rural nurses to obtain a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from their home communities. Psychiatric nurse practitioners diagnose and treat patients as well as prescribe medications.

Dr. Rice said his BHECN work introduced him to many behavioral health consumers, care providers and community champions across Nebraska.

“Their collective voice,” he said, “became the foundation BHECN was built on. Their dedication and commitment was humbling and encouraged all of us to take steps that lead to a better future. As we started BHECN, we were always mindful that it was about those suffering from mental illness and their children, husbands, wives, neighbors and communities.”


Joseph Evans, PhD, succeeds Dr. Rice as BHECN’s associate clinical director. Dr. Evans is a professor and director of psychology at the UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) and division director of pediatric psychology for the UNMC College of Medicine. More.

BHECN was established in 2009 by the Nebraska Legislature (LB 603) to support increased recruitment, retention, education and training for Nebraska’s behavioral health workforce as well as to expand statewide access to behavioral care providers, especially in rural areas.


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