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May 22, 2009, 2:30 p.m. CT   


Jen Rae Hein, Gov’s Office
Ashley Cradduck, Gov's Office



Gov. Heineman Signs LB 603 into Law
Bill Provides Additional Support for Children & Families
with Behavioral Health Needs

(Lincoln Neb.) Gov. Dave Heineman today signed LB 603 into law. The bill provides additional services, support and professional resources to help Nebraska families dealing with children’s behavioral health issues.

The bill helps address the gap in services for children with behavioral health issues by providing services and expertise to support children and their families.

“One of the most important aspects of this bill is to give parents and guardians seeking help with children and teens direct access to trained professionals,” Gov. Heineman said. “We have had a positive discussion about how to help Nebraska families and I want to thank the Legislature for their efforts during the past year. It is a step in the right direction.”

As part of the Governor’s budget recommendations submitted at the start of the 2009 session was a commitment to develop new family support programs for children with behavioral health issues.

Working with the Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee Chairman Sen. Tim Gay of and Sen. Gwen Howard, both of Omaha, the Governor proposed new services to support children and families dealing with behavioral health challenges. The bill includes:

  • A statewide hotline for families facing a behavioral health crisis available 24/7 and staffed by professionals trained in mental health assessment.

  • A family navigator program to provide follow-up assistance and one-on-one support to families contacting the crisis hotline. Family navigators will have the experience and training to help a family access mental health services, and offer assistance to parents and guardians who may not be familiar with providers in Nebraska’s behavioral health network.

  • New services for families that adoption or serve as guardians of a child with behavioral health challenges. Case management and post-adoption services will be available on a voluntary basis.

Roughly half the of the children and teens involved in 2008 safe haven cases in Nebraska had been adopted or placed in a guardianship with a relative. Studies show continuing services is effective in helping families through the transition and ensure a child’s placement is a permanent.

Gov. Heineman said, “We hope these three areas will provide meaningful help to struggling families, where a little added help can make a big difference.”

LB 603 takes a step toward expanding services and helping more families access help by increasing the eligibility level for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) from 185 to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. It also adds secure residential treatment to the list of Medicaid-eligible services in Nebraska.

It also provides an additional $1.5 million in the next biennium to Nebraska’s six behavioral health regions to expand an existing mentoring program and support other services for children.

Finally, the bill seeks to encourage greater professional support in Nebraska communities. It establishes the Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). The center will recruit and train more psychiatry residents and develop six behavioral health training sites across the state.

Starting in 2010, two new psychiatry residents will work and train in Nebraska communities, with two more residents added each year. In 2013, eight new residents will be working in psychiatry programs. Over the next four years, 20 additional psychiatry residents will be available to assist families in the rural and underserved areas of the state.

“Our goal is to put the focus on prevention and earlier intervention in order to help more children remain at home with their families,” Gov. Heineman said. “This bill is a step in that direction. It will ensure that our efforts to provide better services continue.”


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