DHHS Shares Next Steps in Building YRTC System

News Release
For Immediate Release: 7/16/2020

Leah Bucco-White, Office of Communications, (402) 309-4157,
Khalilah LeGrand, Ed.D., Office of Communications, (402) 853-1320,


Lincoln – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced yesterday the next steps in an ongoing effort to redevelop the state's Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC) System.

This fall, the YRTC in Kearney (YRTC-K) will return to providing rehabilitation and treatment exclusively for young men. The young women currently located on the Kearney and Geneva campuses will move to a new 24-bed facility on the modernized Hastings Regional Center campus. Both male and female youth with high acuity needs will continue to be served in Lincoln as needed.

“This is the next step in our efforts to align programmatic and behavioral needs for youth," DHHS CEO Dannette R. Smith said. “When we presented our business plan last year, I made it clear that the plan was an interim one – a necessary step to address the emerging and evolving needs of the people served by the system. We have continually prioritized the best interest of youth in our decision-making and have worked to balance that with our evaluation of program needs and stakeholder input, which often centered on the desire to separate the female and male youth. What we're trying to achieve is a program that addresses staffing and safety concerns in an environment that is vibrant and fully supports these youth and their ability to thrive. These changes will help us get there."

DHHS has retained the Missouri Youth Services Institute (MYSI) to help design and implement changes to the System's organizational structure, behavioral approaches and community engagement strategies. Over the next year, MYSI will work with staff in Kearney and Hastings to enhance clinical therapy and education programs, update case planning processes, and recommend updates to make existing facilities better suited to serving youth.

The Kearney campus will continue to serve as the hub for male youth.  YRTC-K was recently rated 99.7% compliant in reaccreditation by the American Correctional Association (ACA). The Lincoln Facility is reserved for those youth who may need more intensive interventions, due to their higher acuity.

DHHS will no longer use the facility in Geneva for YRTC programming as maintaining robust clinical services has been a recruitment challenge.  However, DHHS is working with teammates in transitioning to other programs or locations. The Geneva campus has had great success with recruiting Medicaid and SNAP support staff and DHHS plans to bolster those operations in order to provide further job opportunities in Geneva in anticipation of the Medicaid expansion rollout.   

Smith said, “We are steadfast in our commitment in doing what's in the best interest of these youth and look forward to fully engaging the communities of Hastings, Kearney and Geneva.  This shift will help us take the next step in building a robust system to meet the multi-faceted needs of these young people."

From Tuesday evening into Thursday, Smith and her team made it a point to speak with over 80 stakeholders that included legislators, city officials, judiciary and probation representatives, advocacy groups, media etc. to ensure complete transparency.


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