Former Sen. Stinner, others recognized by BHECN

Top row from left, former Sen. John Stinner and Kenton Shaffer, MD. Bottom row from left: Cecilia Poon, PhD, Laurie Halpenny and Robin Conyers.

Top row from left, former Sen. John Stinner and Kenton Shaffer, MD. Bottom row from left: Cecilia Poon, PhD, Laurie Halpenny and Robin Conyers.

When he was the leader of the Nebraska Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee, former Sen. John Stinner held a uniquely powerful post that allowed him to help direct how state tax dollars were invested.

In that role, the lawmaker from Gering proved to be a powerful champion for behavioral health, said Erin Schneider, EdD, deputy director of the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska at UNMC. 

“Sen. Stinner often worked directly to ensure the state budget included strong funding for key behavioral health issues,” Dr. Schneider said.

Two examples of Sen. Stinner’s behavioral health advocacy occurred in 2022, his last in the legislature, when he worked to:

  • Increase BHECN’s annual operating budget; and
  • Allocate $25.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to BHECN to distribute to organizations throughout the state to address Nebraska’s behavioral health workforce shortage and behavioral health issues that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As thanks for his efforts to advance behavioral health care, BHECN presented Stinner with the 2023 BHECN Distinguished Service Award on April 16 during the organization’s annual awards dinner in Omaha.

The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor bestowed by BHECN and is presented to individuals who provide inspirational leadership, service, advocacy and heart in support of behavioral health workforce development in Nebraska.

“Sen. Stinner deeply understands the importance of behavioral health care and its impact on the state as a whole,” BHECN Director Marley Doyle, MD, said. “This understanding allowed him to make vital contributions that will improve the health and wellbeing for many Nebraskans for years to come.”

Four others received awards at the dinner including:

  • Robin Conyers and Cecilia Poon, PhD, who received the 2023 Ambassador Award. Conyers is vice president of behavioral services for CHI Health/Central Division of CommonSpirit Health. Dr. Poon is a staff psychologist in the Nebraska Medicine Department of Psychology, training director of the Clinical Health Psychology Pre-Doctoral Internship at Nebraska Medicine and adjunct assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Psychiatry. The award recognizes individuals for outstanding efforts in mentoring the future behavioral health workforce in Nebraska.
  • Kenton Shaffer, MD, a retired pediatrician from Kearney, received the BHECN Champion Award, which recognizes outstanding service and outreach to the behavioral health community by a student, trainee or health care professional.
  • Laurie Halpenny of Omaha – who has long advocated for children with developmental disabilities – received the BHECN Courage Award. The award recognizes outstanding service and outreach to the behavioral health community by a consumer of behavioral health services or a family member.

Learn more about BHECN at this link.

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