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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Gov. Ricketts, Behavioral Health Leaders Highlight System of Care Successes

Media Contacts:  

Luke Robson, Governor’s Office, 402-471-1967

Julie Naughton, Department of Health and Human Services, 402-471-1965



Gov. Ricketts presents the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day proclamation

Gov. Ricketts presents the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day proclamation alongside (left to right) Sharon Dalrymple – SOC, Susan Feyen-Reay – UNMC, Mary Jo Pankoke – Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Jennifer Jackson – Heartland Counseling Services, Sheri Dawson – DHHS, Jaxon Genzler, Mary Thunker, and Jen Genzler.  More photos and quote audio available here.


LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts and behavioral health leaders highlighted Mental Health Awareness Month and Nebraska’s successful Behavioral Health System of Care (SOC) for children and youth.  At the event, SOC partners marked first-year successes and looked to the future, including planned intensive in-home supports for children and family-centered treatment.  The SOC is utilizing a four-year, $12 million grant awarded to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in 2016 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).


“The children’s System of Care is already making a positive impact on Nebraska’s youth and their mental health,” said Governor Ricketts.  “We’re providing crisis response services which allow children to stay in their homes for treatment, provides skill-building for parents and caregivers, and enables school-based therapy.”


“Additionally, the System of Care is striving to provide earlier intervention for youth and families, increase school attendance, serve more youth in their own homes, and realize efficiencies in the form of cost savings which can be reinvested into Nebraska’s youth and families,” said Dr. Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer of DHHS.


The Nebraska SOC, a network of partnerships organized by the DHHS Division of Behavioral Health, offers a spectrum of effective, community-based services and support for youth at risk for mental health or other challenges.  Systems are designed to ensure availability to supports for children and families to address and overcome obstacles.


Committed partnerships among public and private agencies, families and youth have emerged under one umbrella called the NeSOC Collaborative to drive the work of the system.  Partners include the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Administrative Office of Probation, the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN), the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (NCFF), the Regional Behavioral Health Authorities, the Tribal Society of Care, numerous youth and family organizations, and all of the DHHS divisions.


To date, more than 600 young Nebraskans have received treatment through the System of Care, noted Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS, including the following services:


  • Statewide Youth Mobile Crisis Response: Crisis response teams provide on-site mental health crisis counseling and can be reached via the Nebraska Family Helpline, 888-866-8660.  The teams assist with risk assessment, provide crisis intervention, crisis stabilization, and refer families to mental health resources in their communities.  More than 500 individuals have been treated since its inception in May 2017.  In more than 69 percent of the cases, Crisis Response allowed youths to stay at home rather than being admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit.

  • Parents and Children Together (PACT):  In Behavioral Health Region 6 (Douglas, Dodge, Cass, Sarpy, and Washington Counties), PACT has served more than 50 families.  PACT works with children and youth with serious emotional disturbances who are at a high risk for struggling in school, encountering the juvenile justice system and public child welfare services.  In the second and third quarters of fiscal year 2018, 84.21 percent of families served through the PACT program have remained out of formal system involvement at discharge and 94.74 percent of youth served remained safely in the family home at the time of discharge.

  • Early Intervention Therapy & Assessments: School-based therapy and assessments, in Behavioral Health Region 2 (17 counties around North Platte), providing services for children and youth who meet the definition of serious emotional disturbance.  To date, more than 30 children have been served.

  • Expanded Professional Partner Program (PPP): PPP has also been expanded under the grant, serving approximately 60 additional families.  PPP provides intensive wrap-around supports to youth and their families.  These services and supports are individualized, built on strengths, and meet the needs of children and families across life domains to promote success, safety, and permanence in home, school, and community.  Professional Partners liaison with the youth and families formal and informal support systems, such as schools and treatment providers, to help coordinate interventions for the youth.

  • Youth Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): In Behavioral Health Region 1 (seven counties in the Panhandle), IOP began operations on March 16, 2018.  To date, 20 referrals have been received and are currently in the screening and intake process.

  • Additional services include:

    • Parent and Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) – currently in Regions 3,4,5, and 6

    • Statewide Child and Parent Psychotherapy (CPP)

    • Statewide Family Peer Support Services

    • Medicaid coverage for peer support


While speaking positively of all the services, Eve Bleyhl, executive director of the Nebraska Family Support Network (NFSN), singled out one.  “The PACT program is a powerful resource for families,” she said.  “Families are expressing hope and gratitude – they have opened up their lives and their homes to this intensive therapeutic commitment.”


Signs of serious emotional disturbance:

  • Child or teen is struggling in school or at home

  • Showing noncompliance with rules of caregivers, parents or teachers

  • Exhibiting challenging behavior such as anger, tantrums and acting out

  • Withdrawing socially

  • Feeling severe sadness, tearfulness, or upsetting emotions

  • Having repeated thoughts of self-harm or suicide

  • Experiencing changes in eating or sleeping habits


Those seeking services can call the Nebraska Family Helpline, 888-866-8660.