Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2016

Contact Julie Naughton, Communications and Legislative Services, (office) 402-471-1695 or (cell) 402-405-7202, or julie.naughton@nebraska.gov@nebraska.gov

Pony Express Motorcycle Riders to Raise Awareness
For Children’s Mental Health

Lincoln—Volunteer motorcycle riders will travel across the state June 1-4 for the Pony Express, an annual effort to raise awareness about children’s mental health. The ride will culminate in a ceremony on the North Capitol steps of the Nebraska State Capitol at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 4. 

The bikers, who are primarily members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and called Eagle Riders, will kick off their ride in Gering on June 1. During the ride — which spans almost 900 miles — these motorcyclists will reenact the mail-delivery service of the storied Pony Express by picking up letters about children’s mental health written by youth, their families and other supporters, which will be delivered to lawmakers at the State Capitol.
 
The ride is presented by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Behavioral Health and several family organizations, including Families Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education (Families CARE), Magellan Healthcare and Nebraska Families Collaborative.
 
“This statewide awareness and advocacy event places a spotlight on the challenges faced by families with young people whom have behavioral health challenges,” said Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer of the Department of Health and Human Services.  “We must treat mental health challenges with the same urgency and respect as we treat physical health challenges.”
 
After a festival for families at Fresh Foods in Gering, the riders will begin traveling across the state. On June 2, they will visit North Platte, Lexington and Kearney; June 3 will take them to Grand Island, Columbus, Norfolk and Fremont; and on June 4, they will travel to Omaha and then to Lincoln.
 
Additional festivities will be held along the way. On June 2, a children’s mental health celebration will take place at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds from 4:30-7:30 p.m.  There will be booths with food and activities for kids provided by area agencies. On June 3, the Parent to Parent Network will host an event at Ta-Ha Zouka Park in Norfolk from 4-7 p.m. 
 
On June 4, from 1-2:30 p.m., families and youth will gather at the State Capitol to present the letters to state leaders. Afterward, there will be activities, such as bowling at Parkway Lanes in Lincoln, for the youth and families to enjoy together. 
 
“The purpose of the awareness campaign is to say ‘here we are, we can give help, your kids can survive and thrive’,” said Karla Bennetts, executive director of Kearney-based Families CARE, a non-profit family organization providing services in central Nebraska to parents who have children with emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges.  “We will help kids find their talents regardless of their other challenges. The day is also an opportunity for parents to express their thoughts and support, which is very empowering.”

DHHS provides several resources for families with behavioral health needs, including the Nebraska Family Helpline, a free, confidential resource for parents with questions or concerns about their child’s behavior. Trained counselors are available to deal with issues from bullying, drugs and thoughts of suicide to sharing and obedience issues. The Helpline is funded by DHHS and operated by Boys Town. The Helpline phone number is 1-888-866-8660.
 
The Network of Care website is an online resource providing information about behavioral health services across the state. For more information, visit http://dhhs.ne.gov/behavioral_health/Pages/networkofcare_index.aspx.

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