Newsroom > DHHS News Release

January 29, 2018

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

DHHS, UNMC Team Up to Launch Statewide Education Model for Substance Use Disorder
LINCOLN—  On Feb.2, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) plan to launch an ECHO they hope will reverberate with medical providers across the state and enable them to treat individuals with complex conditions in their own communities.
Nebraska’s first ECHO – an acronym for Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, a telementoring initiative – focuses on pain and substance use disorder and is a partnership between DHHS’s Division of Behavioral Health, UNMC’s Department of Psychiatry, and UNMC’s Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN). The ECHO model was launched in 2003 at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine as a means of providing better educational access for healthcare providers in rural and underserved communities.
The ECHO model does not actually provide care to patients.  Through the power of videoconferencing, ECHO connects providers in local communities with specialist mentors at an academic medical center.  A brief didactic discussion is included in all ECHO sessions but the greatest learning takes place over in-depth discussions of real world consultations.  No protected health information (patient name, etc.)  is shared during the session.  Recommendations for best practices are shared by the specialist mentors.  The local providers develop their skills and competency to serve individuals with substance use disorders and pain management challenges. 
“Because 88 of Nebraska’s 93 counties are recognized as mental health professional shortage areas by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, DHHS is pleased to partner with UNMC to address behavioral health workforce challenges across Nebraska.” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Our ultimate goal is to provide access to treatment right where the patient lives.”  
"Access to high quality expertise for clinicians on the front lines of the opioid pain and addiction crisis is crucial,” added BHECN’s Director, Howard Liu, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “Project ECHO ensures that expertise is available across the state, eliminating distance barriers and opening the door to more collaboration." 
“We are very familiar with how telemedicine can favorably impact rural communities, so we are thrilled to be involved in the Project ECHO initiative,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., chancellor for UNMC and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “We think this is an exciting program that holds great promise in addressing the opioid addiction crisis in our state and especially in rural communities.
“It’s a perfect example of how collaboration can make a difference. We look forward to working with DHHS to help get Project ECHO program up and running. We learned a great deal when Dr. Sanjeev Arora of the University of New Mexico, one of the founders of this national initiative, visited UNMC last year. It has been a great outreach tool in New Mexico and in many other communities. We are hopeful that it will be just as successful in Nebraska.”
The topic of the first learning session, which will be held from 12 pm to 1:15 pm CST, is Promoting Provider Team Care. It will be presented by Lincoln psychiatrist and DBH consultant Todd Stull, who has extensive experience in addiction medicine.
Each session will begin with a 15-minute presentation, to be followed immediately by a case presentation and discussion.
In addition to the Feb.2 session, six additional calls have been scheduled. All will take place from 12 pm to 1:15 pm CST.
  • Feb. 16: Screening, Assessment and Diagnosis for Substance Use Disorder and Data Trends, presented by Dr. Tina Chasek, clinical mental health counselor and addiction counselor, Kearney
  • March 2: Pain Management: Non Pharmacological Interventions, presented by Dr. John Massey, pain management specialist, Lincoln
  • March 16: Substance Use Disorder Treatment: Pharmacological Interventions, presented by Dr. Ken Zoucha, addiction medicine specialist and medical director of DHHS’s Juvenile Chemical Dependency Program, Hastings
  • March 30: Pain Management: Pharmacological Interventions, presented by Dr. John Massey
  • April 6: Substance Use Disorder Treatment: Non-Pharmacological Interventions, presented by Dr. Sandra Cook-Fong, Ph.D, licensed clinical social worker and professor at the University of Nebraska - Kearney
  • April 20: Relapse: Peer Support and Primary Support, presented by Aaron Barnes, addiction recovery coach and personal trainer, Omaha
Providers - including but not limited to physicians, nurses, physician assistants, behavioral health practitioners (or providers), peer support specialists, and pharmacists - may register on the UNMC Project Echo website.
The project is supported by the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant, a one-year, $2 million grant awarded to DHHS’s Division of Behavioral Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in June 2017. The grant may be renewed for the same amount later this year.