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Providing a safety net and delivering services for Nebraska’s most vulnerable is one of the core functions of state government. In our organization, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) helps to deliver many services to Nebraska’s youth, families, and elderly among other vulnerable populations across the state. It is no secret DHHS has faced challenges in the past. With a new leadership team in place led by CEO Courtney Phillips, however, the agency is on a new path to achieving its mission of helping Nebraskans live better lives.
Over the past year, DHHS has been applauded by the public and its partners for the significant advancements it has made under new leadership. For example, call wait times at the agency’s call center for public benefits have dropped from almost 24 minutes in August 2014 to less than five minutes in recent months. Additionally, the state’s child welfare system exceeded all six federal standards in 2015. Three years ago DHHS met only two standards. In the last month, the agency announced that its public health division achieved national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board, a significant achievement only a small percentage of public health agencies have earned nationally.
This is only the beginning. Just recently, DHHS CEO Courtney Phillips and I unveiled a new business plan to guide the agency. The plan includes twenty-five different initiatives in five categories which will help the agency improve services and deliver better results by giving the agency a common vision and written, measureable goals to work towards. The categories include the following: integrating services and partnerships; promoting independence through community-based services; focusing on prevention to change lives; leveraging technology to increase effectiveness; and increasing operating efficiencies and improvements.
DHHS is already hard at work implementing several of these initiatives. An integrated Medicaid health program called Heritage Health will launch at the beginning of 2017. The agency is working with its partners to create a system that will more efficiently deliver healthcare services to our state’s Medicaid clients. Another one of the initiatives already in progress is the implementation of a new Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which will help combat drug abuse and overdoses. The agency is working with partners to proactively address opioid abuse, which has become a national epidemic.
Additionally, the agency’s Behavioral Health Division is working to develop a System of Care for Nebraska’s children and youth to improve mental healthcare. This program will help eliminate the need for families to navigate multiple systems to meet the needs of their children by streamlining service delivery. DHHS is working with numerous partners including local government agencies, non-profits, service providers, families, and advocacy groups to make this a reality.
These are just a few examples of some of the great work Courtney Phillips and her team are doing at DHHS to help Nebraskans live better lives. There are still unmet challenges, but I am confident that the agency’s new leadership and the entire team will continue to deliver better results for our state’s most vulnerable populations. If you have any experiences with DHHS that you would like to share with my office, I hope you will contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 402-471-2244. We will continue to work to improve the customer experience for you and every Nebraskan!