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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Gov. Ricketts Accepts Award Recognizing Nebraska’s Work on Mental Health

Media Contacts:  

Eric Maher, 402-471-1974




Governor Ricketts receives the B4Stage4 Leadership Award at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.  He is joined by (From left to right)

Mental Health America Board Chair Reggie Williams, Mental Health America President and CEO Paul Gionfriddo, MHA-NE Executive Director Kasey Moyer, and LPD Officer Luke Bonkiewicz.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Governor Pete Ricketts recently received the B4Stage4 Leadership Award from Mental Health America during a visit to Washington, D.C.  Mental Health America is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans.


“I am honored to receive the B4Stage4 Leadership Award on behalf of our team in Nebraska.  The team has been making great strides in the field of mental health,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Thank you to all of our partners in communities across Nebraska who have put in the time and hard work to make this possible.  Nebraska is the best place in the world because of our people.  This award is proof that we have some truly amazing people who have worked hard to ensure Nebraska is helping to lead the nation in addressing mental health needs.”


The B4Stage4 Leadership Award is presented to governors who have prioritized prevention, early identification and intervention, and access to integrated services to those with behavioral health concerns.  Governor Ricketts and Nebraska received the award specifically for:


  • Prioritizing early intervention and connection to coordinated services for Nebraska’s children and families through the Nebraska System of Care;
  • Prioritizing corrections reform in the form of increased dollars to hire additional behavioral health staff and providing better programming for inmates with behavioral health needs to facilitate successful reentry and reduce recidivism;
  • The outstanding relationship between Mental Health Association of Nebraska (MHA-NE) and the Lincoln Police Department (LPD), which over time has reduced crises, hospitalization, and jail time for those with behavioral health issues;
  • MHA-NE having two peer respite houses, the Keya House and Hanu House, for longer-term stays for those released from a correctional setting.


“I am grateful for Governor Ricketts’ support of the children’s System of Care,” said Sheri Dawson, Director of Behavioral Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  “Crisis response results to date show that 77 percent of young people remain in their homes and are connected to services.  The statewide access to crisis response helps to ensure that Nebraska’s children and families lead healthier lives.”


A System of Care is a framework for designing mental health services and supports for children and youth who have a serious emotional disturbance.  It connects and coordinates the work of state child-serving agencies, nonprofits, local governments, behavioral health care providers, families, and patient advocates.  Crisis response, which provides for early intervention and referral to treatments and supports, is now available statewide through a $12-million, four-year grant awarded to DHHS and its Division of Behavioral Health in 2016 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  This allows families to be served in their communities.


“We are continuously working to change the culture of corrections in Nebraska,” said Scott Frakes, Director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS).  “A major aspect of this reform has been focused in the area of behavioral health in our prisons.  We appreciate the Governor’s support of additional behavioral health staff for our prisons and expanded treatment opportunities for inmates who have behavioral health needs.”


“The Lincoln Police Department congratulates Governor Ricketts for his dedication to those with mental health needs and applauds his ongoing efforts to develop additional mental health resources, especially those based in peer support,” said LPD Officer Luke Bonkiewicz.  “We are proud to partner with the Governor and Mental Health America in this ongoing effort to proactively address mental health issues in our community.”


“We are honored to recognize a leader making a difference on the front lines of mental health,” said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of Mental Health America.  “Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska has shown a deep commitment to raising awareness about early childhood mental health needs and has prioritized policy change to create systems reform.”


You can learn more about Mental Health America’s B4Stage4 philosophy here.