Newsroom > DHHS News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 4, 2008

CONTACT
Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287 

DHHS Unveils New Strategic Direction for Children and Adolescent Behavioral Health

Lincoln – The Department of Health and Human Services submitted "Creating Change and Providing Hope," its plan for behavioral health for children and adolescents, to the Governor and the Legislature today, as required by LB 542 (2007).

"We’re creating a fundamental shift in behavioral health services for children and adolescents," said Scot Adams, director of the Division of Behavioral Health in DHHS. "We are moving to a greater emphasis on in-home and community-based services where children and adolescents can be healthy, safe and in their own homes whenever possible."

Key elements of the DHHS plan include:

  • Balanced array of services
  • Accessible services
  • Strategic use of evidence-based approaches
  • Explore new facilities and services to address the most challenging juvenile offenders
  • Develop common language and goals

The plan addresses those children and families that the state is already touching. Children and adolescents who are state wards may have multiple needs that can span behavioral health, child welfare, juvenile justice, and education systems, Adams said.

"We want to fundamentally change our current system, where approximately 70 percent of our 7,000 state wards are placed in out of home care. By January 2011, we want 70 percent to be safely living with their own families," said Todd Landry, director of the Division of Children and Family Services in DHHS. "We want to keep kids home whenever it’s safe and appropriate. We can make this happen by working with our partners to create a balanced array of community-based services."

Recommendations in the DHHS plan include:

  • Addressing shortage of behavioral health professionals in certain rural areas by collaborating with the DHHS Office of Rural Health to expand access through use of technology like telehealth. Telehealth does a good job with access to physical health professionals, and we want to expand that to include behavioral health professionals.
  • DHHS is in agreement with the LB 542 Children’s Task Force regarding discontinuing adolescent mental health services at the Hastings Regional Center. That program closed January 1, 2008.
  • DHHS has had preliminary discussions and is exploring a public/private partnership with the City of Hastings for a facility to provide Level 5 highly secure services and chemical dependency treatment services.

The full DHHS plan can be found at http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/LB542.pdf.

-30-