Behavioral Health Education Center announces annual awards honorees

by Krista Roberts
April 27, 2018

Image with caption: Howard Liu, M.D. (left) presents the BHECN Courage Award to Jennifer Alquicira of Omaha.

Howard Liu, M.D. (left) presents the BHECN Courage Award to Jennifer Alquicira of Omaha.

The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) announced the 2018 Annual Awards honorees, recognizing individuals who make a significant impact in the behavioral health field in the categories of distinguished service, ambassadorship and courage.

"The BHECN Awards are a way to honor individuals who are mentoring others and advocating greater access, awareness, and information about behavioral health careers in Nebraska," said Howard Liu, M.D., director of BHECN and interim chair of the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Psychiatry. "My thanks and congratulations goes to our 2018 honorees for making a difference in behavioral health."

The Distinguished Service Award, BHECN’s highest honor, was presented to Joe Evans, Ph.D., for his groundbreaking work in integrating behavioral health providers in primary care clinics to improve access to mental health services for children and families in Nebraska. His 20-year mission has resulted in 42 integrated behavioral health clinics serving more than 225 different communities across Nebraska.

Dr. Evans, BHECN’s clinical director and a Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) professor of psychology, has received more than $19 million in grants and funding to support training and expanded services during his career.

"He is truly a pioneer and visionary," Dr. Liu said. "He has given his entire career to helping those who are most underserved in health care."

The Ambassador Award, which recognizes individuals for their outstanding efforts in mentoring behavioral health students and trainees in Nebraska, was awarded to two deserving individuals this year, Nancy Foster, Ph.D., and Kristen Hembree, Ph.D.

Dr. Foster, an outreach psychologist with Kearney Pediatrics Clinic and an assistant psychology professor for MMI, has recruited and trained students in behavioral health programs from across the nation as a successful supervisor in MMI’s national internship program.

Dr. Hembree, a licensed psychologist and assistant psychology professor for MMI, was recognized for her successful outreach and mentoring to high school and college students on the diverse range of career options in the behavioral health field.

The Courage Award was presented to Jennifer Alquicira, a graduating senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Alquicira was recognized for her outstanding commitment and efforts in promoting mental health awareness through her position as president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness on Campus, the student-run chapter of NAMI, and as a student ambassador board member for NAMI Nebraska.

The awards were presented at BHECN’s first annual Behavioral Health Education Seminar on April 13. There are 15 graduate mental health training programs in Nebraska, and this occasion marked the first time all programs gathered at one event for training and networking.

"By bringing all of the academic training programs together, we are creating a collaborative effort to train students in Nebraska and hopefully keep many of them here," said Dr. Evans, who also advises the consortium. "This group represents the future of our mental health workforce in Nebraska."

To learn more about BHECN, visit or call 402.552.7697.



The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN), pronounced "beacon," was established in 2009 by Legislative Bill 603 to improve access to mental health and substance abuse services, commonly referred to as behavioral health services, for all Nebraskans through development of a skilled workforce. It is a unique partnership among the state legislature, academic institutions, and community partners to create a statewide workforce solution for the shortage of licensed behavioral health professionals. For more information about BHECN, visit