BHECN hosted the 1st Annual Rural Provider Support Network Conference on May 18th in Scottsbluff, Neb. Behavioral health professionals throughout the Nebraska Panhandle gathered together for opportunities to network and develop support systems for practicing behavioral health in their areas.
In the state of Nebraska, 88 out of 93 counties are designated as mental health professions shortage areas. Rural and isolated areas such as the panhandle in particular face this issue. “Rural areas of our state continue to be very underserved regarding mental health providers,” Catherine Jones-Hazledine, Ph.D., one of the leaders of the conference, said. “The support network is designed to help address some of these needs and hopefully improve retention of providers.”
The conference opened with welcome remarks by BHECN director and child psychiatrist Howard Liu, M.D. “Nebraska is faced with critical workforce shortages, leading to gaps in behavioral health services in many rural areas,” stated Dr. Liu. “Our goal for this conference is to bring stakeholders in behavioral health in western Nebraska together to foster a collaborative network which will provide a support system for professionals.”
Dan Ullman, Ph.D. and Rose Esseks, Ph.D. presented the first topic, “Ethics for Rural Behavioral Health Providers.” The presentation covered the unique ethical complexities associated with practicing behavioral health in rural areas and allowed for a great discussion using specific examples and stories shared by participants.
Following the presentation, Dr. Jones-Hazledine moderated a panel discussion, “Ethical and Scope of Practice Issues.” Following their presentation, Drs. Ullman and Esseks were invited to participate in the panel, along with Mark Hald, Ph.D.; Fran Rieken, PLMHP; Shanna Rosentrater, LMHP; Jen Taylor, LMHP, LADC, CPC; and Tara Wilson, Ph.D., LMHP. Panelists shared their own experience dealing with ethical issues they have faced in their daily practice. Participants were able to share their experiences and get feedback and practical solutions.
During the lunch break, Denise Manuel with Cirrus House shared her story of living with mental illness, including a misdiagnosis before arriving at Cirrus House where she found services and programs to help her live independently.
After the lunch presentation, Jamie Baum, M.S., gave a presentation on “Reflective Practice.” Behavioral health providers can experience compassion fatigue as a result of their daily practice, and this presentation discussed the benefits of reflective practice in dealing with possible negative mental health side effects for individuals working in the behavioral health field.
Holly Roberts, Ph.D., from the Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) and Joseph Evans, Ph.D., from BHECN and MMI, presented the final topic of the conference, “Integrating Behavioral Health into Primary Care in Rural Nebraska: Lessons Learned and Best Practices.” Roberts and Evans discussed recommended improvements to education and methods to establish integrated behavioral health care in primary pediatric health care practices.
As the conference ended, Dr. Jones-Hazledine thanked everyone for coming to the conference and expressed thanks to the BHECN team for traveling to western Nebraska for this important networking event.