Behavioral Health Connection program designed to aid community

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | February 04, 2019

Image with caption: From left, David Cates, Ph.D., director of behavioral health at Nebraska Medicine, Celeste Akers, lead navigator for the Behavioral Health Connection (BHC); Howard Liu, M.D., chair of the UNMC Department of Psychiatry; Yevette Henderson, BHC navigator, Donald Roman, BHC navigator; and Maggie Milner, manager, Psychiatry Clinic

From left, David Cates, Ph.D., director of behavioral health at Nebraska Medicine, Celeste Akers, lead navigator for the Behavioral Health Connection (BHC); Howard Liu, M.D., chair of the UNMC Department of Psychiatry; Yevette Henderson, BHC navigator, Donald Roman, BHC navigator; and Maggie Milner, manager, Psychiatry Clinic

The UNMC Department of Psychiatry and Nebraska Medicine Behavioral Health have started a new program, Behavioral Health Connection (BHC), designed to help med center patients and other members of the Omaha-Council Bluffs community connect with the necessary behavioral health and substance use disorder services.

Celeste Akers, manager of the new program, said BHC will offer one main call-in number (402-836-9292) through which callers can talk to one of the three-member BHC staff and get referrals to resources they need. They also can be connected to relevant services in the community -- services that may include medical, psychiatric, substance use disorders, psychological, psychopharmacological, social, educational, peer support and housing.

"We can provide information and help on how to fill out things connected to social service or benefits programs, such as mental health support programs, Medicaid or disability," Akers said. "We may offer help getting referrals to a certain program, or callers can make an appointment to get help with paperwork they may need to file to access certain benefits or services."

The program even will offer information on transportation options and information on financial assistance to get prescription medication.

The program is privately funded.

The goal of the program is to address four fundamental barriers to behavioral health care:

  • Lack of familiarity with available mental health and social services;
  • Poor coordination of care among providers;
  • Lack of transportation to needed services; and
  • Difficulty obtaining medications.

The program is currently up and running and can be accessed by the call-in number or through this website.

"We have been working with a generous donor for the past year and are excited to see this program come to fruition," said David Cates, Ph.D., director of behavioral health at Nebraska Medicine. "We are hoping to improve behavioral health in our community by removing common obstacles to care and making it easier for individuals with behavioral health disorders and their families to connect to available resources.

"We are fortunate to have assembled a highly experienced and motivated team to launch our new Behavioral Health Connection program," Dr. Cates said. "We will be tracking a variety of process and outcome measures, including the number and types of services referred, whether or not clients are connected to those services, client ZIP codes, etc., and working with our donor to refine and hopefully expand the program."

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