CHI Health, Creighton University try to ease mental health services shortage

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Nebraska health officials say mental health conditions are rising nationwide, but services are not so easy to find. 

Since the pandemic, Americans’ mental health has been on the decline. 

“We are seeing a mental health crisis continue to expand, really in a level that we’ve never seen before from historical measures across the country,” said Robin Conyers, CHI’s vice president of behavioral health services.

Conyers said that poses a challenge to the mental health care workforce.  

According to a University of Nebraska Medical Center report, 88 of Nebraska’s 93 counties have a shortage of mental health professionals.

“The more rural you get, the more challenging it is for those individuals who need that care,” Conyers said. 

After seeing the need in our state for mental health services, CHI partnered with Creighton University’s College of Nursing.  

They are creating an online scholarship program for nurse practitioners to train in mental health services. 

“It’s a one-year certification that includes didactic classes, which are all online, as well as clinical experiences,” said Sara Banzhaf of the nursing college.

The program is designed for nurses who are already working in hospitals and are seeing patients dealing with mental health struggles.  

“Rather than have to have them refer it to somebody when we know there’s a shortage of these providers out there, let’s prepare them to take care of, you know, just sort of the normal depressions and things that come into the office,” said Catherine Todero, dean of the nursing college.

Creighton says this is only one way to alleviate the mental health crisis in our state. 

“I think we need to continue to think about how we can expand services beyond this program,” Todero said.

The program is funded by the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska.

Creighton is hoping to launch the program by May.

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