Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
May 11, 2016

Contact Julie Naughton, Communications and Legislative Services, (office) 402-471-1695 or (cell) 402-405-7202, or

DHHS Highlights First Episode Psychosis Pilot Program
Program Aims For Early Intervention, Optimal Outcomes

Lincoln—According to the Department of Health and Human Services, a new pilot program underway in Behavioral Health Regions 3 and 6 is aimed at helping young adults between the ages of 15 to 25 who have experienced their first episode of psychosis learn how to manage their symptoms, develop coping skills, and focus on goals and recovery.

The Nebraska First Episode Psychosis (FEP) pilot provides enhanced services to first episode psychosis patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder, delusion disorder, brief psychotic disorder and psychotic disorder not otherwise specified.

“These pilot programs have the potential to be life-changing for young people who have had a first psychotic episode,” said Sheri Dawson, R.N., director of the DHHS Division of Behavioral Health. “With the right help early on, individuals can and will continue their journey through life, enjoying relationships and meaningful work experiences.”

First episode psychosis signals the first time a person is experiencing a loss of contact from reality. Warning signs include trouble thinking or concentrating; a decline in self-care or personal hygiene; strong, inappropriate emotions or having no feelings at all; hearing voices or having hallucinations; a significant drop in work performance or grades, and spending a lot more time alone than usual.

Region 3 represents a rural population with 150,000 people in central Nebraska, while Region 6 is more urban, with upward of 900,000 people in the Omaha area, said Dawson. The two pilot areas were chosen to track and compare the similarities and differences providing services in rural and metropolitan areas.

“This is a hope-filled program,” said Beth Baxter, Region 3 administrator.  “The specialty care process can positively change the course of a young person’s life. Early intervention with evidence-based therapies offers real hope for recovery. Even if they don’t meet the pilot requirements, we can refer patients to helpful mental health professionals.”
The program includes four different treatment professionals – a team leader, a practitioner with the ability to prescribe medication, a licensed clinician and a supported employment and education specialist – who work collaboratively as a team. They include medication management, supported employment and education, individual psychotherapy and family education and psychotherapy.
In Region 3, referrals can be made by calling OnTrack Central Nebraska at (308) 455-3044. In Region 6, they may reach out to OnTrack of the Heartland at (402) 552-7003 or by email at
The anticipated length of treatment is a minimum of two years but is based on individual needs.
The Nebraska FEP Coordinated Specialty Care Pilot Program is utilizing the evidence-based practice Coordinated Specialty Care model developed by OnTrack NY and supported by the Center for Practice Innovations at Columbia Psychiatry.
The DHHS Division of Behavioral Health provides funding, oversight and technical assistance to the pilot in local Behavioral Health Regions. The Regions contract with local programs to provide public inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services and community mental health, and substance abuse.
According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, the total cost associated with serious mental illness annually tops $300 billion.
Note: Region 3 comprises the counties of Adams, Blaine, Buffalo, Clay, Custer, Franklin, Furnas, Garfield, Greeley, Hall, Hamilton, Harlan, Howard, Kearney, Loup, Merrick, Nuckolls, Phelps, Sherman, Valley, Webster and Wheeler. Region 6 is made up of Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington counties.