Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
September 13, 2016

Contact Julie Naughton, Public Information Officer, Communications and Legislative Services, (office) 402-471-1695 or (cell) 402-405-7202, 
DHHS Awarded Major Behavioral Health Children’s System of Care Grant
The $12 million federal grant will fund implementation of the integrated service model in Nebraska
LINCOLN – The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been selected as a recipient of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) System of Care Cooperative Agreement grant, which will provide $3 million per year for four years to continue implementing the System of Care in Nebraska.
The System of Care, a framework for integrating mental health services and supports for children and youth who have a serious emotional disturbance and their families, improves access to a full array of coordinated community-based services. It is also identified in the DHHS Business Plan as a priority.
“Over the years, parents have navigated multiple, complex systems to obtain help for their children, but our new Children’s System of Care is changing the way Nebraska families access behavioral health services,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts. “Once fully implemented, the system will offer Nebraska the opportunity to simplify processes for families, increase quality of care, and become even more effective and efficient.”
“These funds will be critical to early service development and system improvements as we work to implement a statewide System of Care,” added Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer of DHHS.
Beginning Sept. 30, the Division of Behavioral Health will be working with the SOC Implementation Committee to operationalize the System of Care and the grant across Nebraska.   The System of Care will be used to develop effective service delivery systems for all children, those with or who are at-risk of emotional and behavioral problems. 
“It is important that we infuse the system of care framework at state, regional and local levels to be effective. This will allow us to meet youth and family needs more efficiently,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health for DHHS, who noted that the division partnered with the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and other organizations to produce the System of Care framework. “If someone is receiving services from Behavioral Health, Probation and Education, for instance, having all partners at the same table including the youth and family will lead to the most effective outcomes.”
“The highly anticipated announcement that Nebraska has been awarded the System of Care grant is great news, not only for those partners that have worked diligently to bring this initiative to fruition, but more importantly for the positive impact that the System of Care will have on the children and families of Nebraska,” said Mary Jo Pankoke, president and CEO of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. “Nebraska Children is proud to be a partner in such a progressive initiative.”
“Our goal is to support youth and families in new and innovative ways; grant funding will not only provide a unique opportunity to develop services that either don’t exist currently in the system or to further invest in evidence based practices, but it also will allow the flexibility to focus efforts on prevention, early identification and intervention measures to reduce out of home placements, increase peer support and continue to upgrade care management,” said Tamara Gavin, deputy director for the Division of Behavioral Health. “This grant gives us funding for service buildup and capacity, and allows us to strengthen ties with local partners.” As well, she added, the new model is expected to decrease in cost per youth receiving services, decrease the average age of first system contact and increase school attendance and performance.
The System of Care Leadership Board recently elected Beth Baxter, chair of the Nebraska Children’s Commission and regional administrator at Region 3 Behavioral Services, and Karla Bennetts, executive director for Families CARE, as its chairs. The Leadership Board will provide recommendations relating to the development and implementation of the Nebraska System of Care.
Over 37,000 children in Nebraska experience behavioral health disorders, according to the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health. According to national reports, half of all lifetime mental illness begins at the average age of 14, and three quarters by age 24.  Between two to five percent of children suffer from a serious mental health disorder that causes substantial impairment in functioning at home, at school, or in the community.