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Following up on Children’s Behavioral Health (LB 603)

On October 30, 2012, The Children’s Behavioral Health Committee discussed the progress in the implementation of LB603.  LB603’s intention is to address the lack of support for families with children dealing with a behavioral health crisis.  Support systems have been created, however barriers and gaps continue to exist within the systems.

Behavioral Health regions across the state of Nebraska have intervened to serve children at risk for becoming state wards and assisted 283 youth so far according to Beth Baxter, Region 3 Director.

LB 603 also created the Nebraska Children and Family Helpline. With the goal of being a single point of access for support for families, Shellie Gomes, the program manager reported 7,100 different families have been served.  In review of the calls, the major issue the Helpline faces in directing families to services is where to direct behavioral health issues. Currently, these calls are either followed up through law enforcement or families are sent to the ER. Attention needs to be focused on investing in alternative support systems and helping children without more intensive law enforcement or emergency care options.

Children and families in foster care or adoption face a unique set of behavioral health issues. Many children in these situations struggle with a sense of loss from being removed from their family even when provided with a safe home. There is an insufficient number of mental health providers able to address loss associated with adoption and guardianship. However, through LB603 funding, Right Turn created A Step Further intervention and support program help provide a solution to this issue.

Despite the growth of programs and a clear need for expanded services , Director Scott Adams of DHHS Division of Behavioral Health stated there will be no expansion to funding for behavioral health issues involved in LB 603.  In fact, Voices for Children’s own look at the DHHS’s proposed budget indicates a cut to behavioral health services.

Although the hearing showed that through LB 603 Nebraska has made steps toward an improved behavioral health system, the progress must continue. The issues will not dissipate by only touching the surface.  The programs and partnerships created by LB603 are a great start, however, children’s behavioral health services need a deeper commitment to develop a healthier Nebraska.

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