In an occasional series on our website, we’re featuring interesting groups, organizations and people making a difference in behavioral health in Nebraska. BHECN recently had the pleasure of meeting Project Harmony staff and learning more about their services.
1. Who are you?
Gene Klein, LCSW, Executive Director & Deb Anderson, PhD, MSW, Director of Connections at Project Harmony
2. What does your organization do?
Project Harmony is a child advocacy center, accredited by the National Children’s Alliance. We are one of seven CAC’s in Nebraska and one of six in Iowa. We serve Douglas and Sarpy counties in Nebraska and 16 counties in southwest Iowa.
Project Harmony is co-located with the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Division of Children and Family Services, Omaha Police Department’s Child Victim Unit, Lutheran Family Services, and Child Saving Institute to provide coordinated services to children and their families.
We coordinate child abuse investigations with law enforcement, child welfare agencies, and legal system (county attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, etc). We offer advocacy and support for families including referrals to therapy, food and housing assistance, funding services for utilities, assistance with legal advocacy, etc. We employ child forensic interview specialists who are specially trained in child development and forensic interviewing. We use a team approach, with investigators observing the live interview and providing input about the information they need but only one person – the forensic interview specialist – conducts the interview. This reduces confusion and trauma to the child.
Project Harmony’s newest program is Connections, a program designed to improve access to mental health services for children, grades K-8, and their families. Focused on prevention and early intervention, Connections is designed to serve children before they are abused or neglected, with referrals coming from schools and pediatric clinics. Mental health coordinators connect the child and family to the right mental health provider at the right time, and we are able to provide financial resources both to providers to ensure their availability, and to families to help reduce barriers to treatment.
3. What makes your organization unique?
Four things make us unique:
- Co-location with professionals involved in child abuse investigations, treatment, and prosecution
- Innovative approach to addressing problems identified in the larger system, which led to the creation of the Triage Center, Impact from Infancy, Connections, etc.
- Collaboration with others to increase capacity in serving children and families in the larger community
- State-of-the-art training department that emphasizes skill-based learning
4. What has surprised you most about the organization?
Not a surprise as much as what’s such a pleasure: commitment and passion of our staff; support from the community
5. What is most challenging about your organization?
Growing our services in a way that remains true to our mission
6. What do wish more people knew about your organization?
That we are committed to helping children and families recover from traumatic experiences.
7. Project Harmony is well known for your work in the child protection field, what kinds of assistance do you offer related to children’s mental health?
- Crisis intervention for children and families receiving services due to an allegation of abuse/neglect.
- Referral to community therapists who have training in evidence-based practices trauma along with follow-up services to make sure the family is helped (provided to children/families who are interviewed here as well as to children/families referred to the Connections program).
- Training for brokers, therapists, parents, and general public about trauma, mental health, evaluations, and evidence-based practices.