Newsroom > DHHS News Release


July 1, 2008

Kathie Osterman, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-9313 or

Note: Sound bites from Christine Peterson are available at:


DHHS Celebrates First Year Achievements

Lincoln – The new Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services turns one year old today.

"The year has gone by extremely fast and we're proud of what we've accomplished," said Christine Peterson, the agency's Chief Executive Officer. "We've changed the way we do business to be more accountable, accessible and action-oriented."

Governor Heineman introduced LB 296 in 2007, which combined three former agencies into DHHS, with six divisions that are clearly identified by their names and responsibilities.

"Governor Heineman's vision for the Department has resulted in improvements in services and operations," Peterson said. "I believe we've made incredible progress and we intend to continue on this path."

Examples of accomplishments within the Department's six divisions include:

Behavioral Health. The last of the LB 1083 Behavioral Health reform funding, $3.5 million, is ready to be distributed. This has allowed an additional 9,000 consumers to be served in their communities, closer to friends and families. Since LB 1083 was passed in 2004, over $30.1 million has moved to community-based services by closing 232 adult and 16 youth psychiatric beds at two of the state's three regional centers. In addition, a children's behavioral health program was created and is being integrated into the division. An assisted living facility study group and a veterans/behavioral health study group have been established. Housing-related assistance for persons with mental illness has increased from 127 people in 2006 to 557 people last year.

Children and Family Services. Nebraska leads the nation in Food Stamp accuracy and achieved an increase in finalized adoptions, both resulting in federal bonus money to the state. The number of state wards has decreased, as well as the number children and youth in out of home care. Nebraska is first in the nation in establishing permanency for children in foster care for long periods of time. The division has signed performance-based contracts for new safety and in-home services. Because more children have moved to permanency, worker caseloads have decreased and are more in line with national standards. The Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers in Kearney and Geneva are accredited by the American Correctional Association.

Developmental Disabilities. The division has met the staffing challenges at the Beatrice State Developmental Center head-on. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) approved BSDC's plan of correction, and this week DHHS and the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement regarding the care given to people served at BSDC. The mandatory overtime at BSDC went from over 650 hours a pay period earlier this year to 84 hours at the end of June. The census has decreased by 69 since December, transitioning people to community-based services when appropriate. Effective today, over 200 developmental disability service coordinators will move to the developmental disabilities division from the children and family services division to improve efficiencies in the program.

Medicaid and Long-Term Care. A contract for a new Medicaid information system was awarded to replace the current 30-year old system. It will improve claims processing, information retrieval and enhance reporting. A contract has been signed to provide Medicaid nurse home visitation services for high risk pregnant teens to improve health and parenting skills. The enhanced care coordination project is being created to address the needs of clients who use a disproportionate share of Medicaid dollars by coordinating their care and ensuring that services are used in the most cost effective way. The Money Follows the Person project is being implemented to rebalance Medicaid long-term care spending by increasing home and community-based services.

Public Health. The Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES) and Nebraska Cancer Registry reports have both met their respective national Gold Standards. The new state immunization registry is being implemented. A survey of licensed health care professionals on interactions with the division during investigations and reviews showed a 96% favorable assessment. The department was one of 16 states to receive a Critical Access Hospital Health Technology Grant and a 5-year cardiovascular health grant.

Veterans' Homes. All four Veterans' Homes have new administrators and the new Eastern Nebraska Veterans' Home opened in Bellevue. All four homes have received positive federal surveys during the past year. The Veterans' Homes have developed performance indicators and a systems clinician has been hired.

Across the agency, internal auditing procedures have been tightened and improved and a contract template and review process has been implemented. Efforts are underway to increase electronic interactions with the public, and people can now subscribe to receive new information as it's posted to the DHHS Website (


"These are only examples of all that's been accomplished," said Peterson. "Staff across the state have renewed energy and have shown a commitment to make improvements; I'm very proud of their work.