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Gov. Ricketts, State Agencies Spotlight Behavioral Health Resources for Schools

Media Contacts:  

Eric Maher, Governor’s Office, 402-471-1974

Julie Naughton, DHHS, 402-471-1695

David Jespersen, NDE, 402-471-4537


Governor Ricketts with NDE Deputy Commissioner for School Improvement and Support Dr. Deborah Frison (left) and DHHS director of the Division of Behavioral Health Sheri Dawson (right).



LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Division of Behavioral Health (DBH), and the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) highlighted two new resources aimed at helping schools access mental health resources.


“Nebraska is seizing opportunities to address behavioral health needs.  Our goal is to collectively support, enhance, and sustain safe, healthy, and successful learning environments for all Nebraska’s children and youth,” said Governor Ricketts.  “We can do this through a comprehensive, integrated team approach to school safety, grounded in collaboration, context, and best practices.”


The issue is a priority for the Governor and the two state agencies.  Developing and implementing a plan for educating school personnel on mental health resources is a deliverable in the DHHS 2018-2019 Business Plan, and DBH will actively collaborate with NDE.  The resource, known as the Behavioral Health Resources for Schools, is a toolkit for school personnel.  It is also available online at


NDE was also recently awarded a $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  Nebraska’s AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency Education)-SEA (State Education Agency) project is designed to enhance collaboration between state and local systems to promote mental health awareness, response, and intervention through an array of school and community-based services for students.  The grant will provide $1.8 million per year, for up to five years.


Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health, noted that DBH has received multiple requests from education partners about accessing school-based mental health resources, and as a result, DBH developed the new toolkit.  


“Schools and other educational organizations across the state are in a unique position to help connect youth and families to behavioral health services,” said Director Dawson.  “Education staff are often the first to identify the needs of youth and it is our commitment to support them in making resource information readily available to those who care for and serve Nebraska’s children and youth.”


“School officials consistently tell me that the mental and behavioral health of students is among their biggest concerns and challenges,” said Commissioner of Education Matthew Blomstedt.  “We know students are dealing with a lot every day and need extra support.  This project and collaboration is designed to find ways to provide that support.  We hope to find strategies and solutions in this project that we can build upon throughout the state.”


Available school-based mental health programs in Nebraska include:


  • School Community Intervention and Prevention (SCIP) provides prevention, education, and early intervention services by applying a multi-layered approach to address at-risk behaviors in youth.  A team of experts assesses the need for action, coordinating an intervention with the student and/or their parent/guardian when necessary and developing an action plan.  This plan may include a referral to an in-school resource or to a partnering behavioral health agency who will provide a screening for the student, at no cost to the family.  Follow-up is provided during and after the intervention to ensure the plan has met the student’s needs.  There are 127 schools, both public and private, implementing SCIP in Nebraska.


  • Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an evidence-based public education and prevention tool that improves the public’s knowledge of mental health and substance-use problems and helps laypersons learn a five-step action plan to help loved ones and others cope with mental health or substance use problems.  Similar to traditional First Aid and CPR, Mental Health First Aid is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis until professional treatment is obtained.


  • Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Training is available to schools through their Behavioral Health Region.  It provides information on how to question, persuade, and refer someone who may be suicidal or how to get help for yourself, as well as the common causes of suicidal behavior, the warning signs of suicide, and how to get help for someone in crisis.  More information on suicide awareness and prevention in schools is available on the NDE website at

Nebraska has several resources to access mental health care.  They include:


  • The Nebraska Family Helpline is a free resource for parents with kids of all ages, who have any type of question regarding their child's behavior, and can be accessed by calling 1-888-866-8660.


  • The Network of Care website allows Nebraskans to link to mental health and substance use treatment providers in their area of the state.


  • Nebraska’s Division of Behavioral Health contracts with six behavioral health regions to provide services for individuals.


  • The Nebraska System of Care grant funding ensures crisis response teams are available to assist families whose children are experiencing a behavioral health crisis.  These teams can be can be initiated by contacting the Nebraska Family Helpline or via law enforcement to assist in resolving crisis and accessing treatment when appropriate.