Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
October 4, 2016

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

DHHS Releases Comprehensive Behavioral Health Needs Assessment

Lincoln — A needs assessment study, released this week by Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services, is intended to provide a roadmap to providing the most comprehensive care for all Nebraskans.

Multiple DHHS divisions are collaborating on these efforts, including Behavioral Health, Medicaid and Long-Term Care, Public Health, Developmental Disabilities and Children and Family Services. 

The study’s data was collected from consumers, providers and family members via numerous focus groups and via an electronic survey, which gathered the feedback of 1,692 Nebraskans.

"The specific objectives of the needs assessment were to identify strengths and gaps in Nebraska’s public behavioral health system and collaborate across DHHS divisions to create solutions,” said Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer of DHHS, adding that the study also identified needs of special populations such as persons with developmental disabilities and the homeless population. 

"Action steps include adding telehealth, which allows us to offer behavioral health treatments to rural Nebraskans, establishing a robust information system that would allow a better information exchange between providers and across different systems, and better educating consumers and families to strengthen their ability to become advocates in accessing the services they need,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Mental health and substance use disorders are very common in the general population, but the perceived stigma with these illnesses prevent many people from seeking help.”

Stakeholder and consumer participants commented that collaboration and engagement are two major strengths of the current behavioral health system, but said a formal agreement and data sharing protocol are needed to enhance the efficiency of collaborative care.

One in five Nebraskans have indicated that they have experienced mental illness and substance use disorder within the past year, indicating that mental health disorders are relatively widespread, chronic health conditions within the state, according to the study. Each year, about 30,000 children and adults in Nebraska receive services through the DBH-funded public behavioral health system across the six behavioral health regions.

According to the study, some Nebraskans are more affected by mental health disorders and substance use disorders than others. For example, women report poorer mental health status and experience depression more often than men. People with lower incomes and less formal education report poorer mental health status than those with higher incomes and more formal education. In terms of race and ethnicity, the American Indian/Native population tends to have poorer mental health status compared to people from other racial/ethnic backgrounds.

The entire report can be accessed at