Here’s a question for you: How can we best meet the behavioral health needs of Nebraska’s children? Or better yet: How do we do this, given our limited resources?
This question becomes especially important as we dig into the DHHS budget request and it’s list of possible modifications and cuts. One of the options put on the table, closing the Hastings Regional Center, gets to the heart of this question and revives some of the debates on children’s behavioral health that have been taking place in Nebraska for a long time.
In 2007, the Children’s Behavioral Health Task Force encouraged moving already existing resources from residential programs into community-based behavioral health services, with a specific focus on the Hastings Regional Center. The following year the children’s mental health program (serving only a few children) at the center was shut down, leaving behind a 40-bed, residential treatment program for young men from the YRTC who struggle with acute substance abuse. No resources were redistributed to community-based
behavioral health services.
The Hastings Regional Center currently provides residential substance abuse treatment for only about 120 young men a year. The total cost each year for the Hastings Regional Center is over $8.3 million – over $69,000 for every youth served.
If Nebraska were to close the Hastings Regional Center, our state would have $3.5 million each year to invest in better serving not only youth with substance abuse challenges at the YRTCs, but also young people in our community and those in need of more intensive services who struggle to access appropriate services.
Similar to the possible scaling back of capacity at both of the YRTCs, the proposed closure of the Hastings Regional Center presents a huge opportunity for Nebraska to improve the way it serves youth and build needed services. This is true if and only if we stop using the closure of facilities serving children as a way to meet our state’s bottom line.
Children in our state deserve a better behavioral health system. Closing the Hastings Regional Center only makes sense if we commit those resources to doing just that.