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University of Nebraska Medical Center

Rural sites help BHECN meet local behavioral health needs

The challenges for Nebraska’s behavioral health providers can vary widely depending on the part of the state in which they practice.

A recent example of this was on display as BHECN opened its Northeast Site at Wayne State College. The site is BHECN’s third Rural Site, joining sites at the University of Nebraska at Kearney – BHECN Central – and the Chadron State College – BHECN Panhandle. BHECN plans to eventually have sites established in all six of Nebraska’s behavioral health regions.

afrank_ciera2023cropped.jpg“The sites allow BHECN to carry out its mission across the state in a way that fits the distinct needs of the region,” said Christine Chasek, PhD, BHECN’s Associate Director of Rural Development, who directed BHECN Central from 2016 to 2021.

Workforce challenges can vary based on region

For instance, Northeast Nebraska, which the newly opened BHECN Northeast Site serves, is a tri-state area and many behavioral health providers in the region practice in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. Many of these providers encounter complex licensure and telehealth regulations with clients seeking services across state lines.

“Given the unique challenge that many providers in our region face, a major focus for BHECN Northeast will be providing training and other resources to help them maintain licensure so they can continue to serve Nebraska residents,” said Ciera Afrank, Director of BHECN Northeast (pictured).

Rural sites a powerful tool to growing the workforce

The rural sites are a strong tool in helping BHECN strengthen the state’s behavioral health workforce, said Marley Doyle, MD, Director of BHECN.

“Nebraska is a large and diverse state, and that means providers, students and trainees face different challenges based on what part of the state in which they work,” Dr. Doyle said. “We’re thrilled to see the northeast site come online and help us better serve the needs of those who live and work in that part of the state.”

Wayne State College is “excited and honored to serve and support the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska’s mission to recruit and retain behavioral health professionals in Northeast Nebraska,” said Steven Elliott, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Wayne State. “I have been impressed with the level of collaboration between UNMC and Wayne State throughout the development of this important partnership with BHECN and look forward to supporting the expansion of training opportunities for the rural behavioral health workforce in Nebraska.”