On October 24, BHECN and some of our partners updated the Health and Human Services committee of the Legislature on some of our key behavioral health workforce development initiatives. The hearing was for Legislative Resolution 592 introduced by Senator Amanda McGill.
Senator McGill introduced Legislative Resolution 592 to study the current state of the mental health workforce in Nebraska. Her behavioral health advocacy began when she created and chaired the “Children in Crisis” Task Force following the Safe Haven crisis in 2008. She says that there has been a lot of progress since the Safe Haven, but there is still a long way to go. “Business as usual is not going to work. Our professionals must be the best. They need the best education, the best training and we need to take care of them. I know that they are overworked and often can’t do the kind of work that they would like to do,” McGill said.
The 2008 task force proposed several strategies to address the problems that led to Safe Haven. In an effort to address the mental health workforce shortage, the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska was formed. Senator McGill said, “I am proud of what BHECN has accomplished in the few short years since it was formed. They are recruiting people to work in the mental health field and they are getting them to stay in Nebraska. The education and training they provide helps us to create a competent and well informed workforce.”
Testifiers at the hearing included:
- Dr. Joe Evans, clinical director at BHECN and chair of psychology at the Munroe-Meyer Institute, on the Nebraska model of primary care integration where behavioral health professionals work in a doctor’s office and treat patients as a team.
- Dr. Katy Menousek from the Munroe-Meyer Institute on the preliminary results of the Children’s Behavioral Health Screening Pilot created by the Legislature in 2013. The pilot screens children for behavioral health concerns in pediatrician’s offices and provides behavioral health services for children who screen positive.
- Denise Zwiener, executive director of Buffalo County Community Partners, on a community-based approach to improving behavioral health and ultimately quality of life.
- Chad Magdanz, from the Mental Health Association on the R.E.A.L. Program. The R.E.A.L. Program is a peer support program that receives referrals from the Lincoln Police Department and connects people with behavioral health services.
- Sara Mitchell, with Project Everlast on the need for a Youth Peer Support Specialist certification.
- Athena Ramos, program coordinator at the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at UNMC on the need for a culturally competent and representative behavioral health workforce.
- Dana Raml, fourth year medical student, on the BHECN Ambassador Program and mentorship’s impact on the choice to enter behavioral health careers.
- Terry Werner, National Association of Social Workers, Nebraska Chapter on solutions to the shortage of Licensed Mental Health Practitioners (LMHPs) and Licensed Independent Mental Health Providers (LIMHPs) including internship opportunities and loan forgiveness.
- Susan Feyen-Reay, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Grace Abbott School of Social Work, on Project NETWORK, a $1.3 million grant to address the shortage of Social Workers in Nebraska.
For more information on any of the testifiers programs and projects, see BHECN’s LR 592 Report.
“As I finish up my career with our legislature, I am left with a feeling that I could have done more if I only had more time,” Senator McGill concluded. “It gives me great peace to know that there are so many members of our community, like those that testified today, who remain committed to the health and well-being of all Nebraskans.”