Funds for mental health expansion in Nebraska advance in Legislature

The funds will help retain mental health professionals in the state.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Two bills and an amendment that would give millions of dollars to various areas across the state for mental and physical health advanced in the Nebraska Legislature on Thursday.

One bill deals with the behavioral health education center, another with the rural health complex in Kearney.  The amendment will continue research on those impacted by the Mead ethanol plant.

Right now, 95% of counties don’t have enough mental health professionals.

“The demand is greater than ever. We have seen in the pandemic numbers that alcohol sales have gone up over 600% and more. What we have seen inside our organization, CenterPointe, is that anxiety and depression have gone as much as 300% just on our crisis response calls and walk-ins. So we are seeing more people than ever,” said Topher Hansen, President and CEO of CenterPointe.

Funding going to the university will help the Behavioral Health Education Center (BHECON) operate behavioral health workforce development centers in all areas of the state.

The funding will also expand paid training and internships, as well as recruitment and retainment efforts for mental health professionals.

“Loading the pipeline if you will, to getting more people in play that can come into the world of mental health and substance and all the places it’s existing in Nebraska, because more and more people need service, and fewer and fewer people have been there over the last two years to provide that service,” Hansen said.

The need for mental health professionals in Nebraska continues to grow.

“The hotline that opened up for farmers back in the ’70s that has never been busier than in the last couple of years and that tells us the level of stress that people are under and then what we have to continue to do is use that telehealth capability to serve people,” Hansen said.

The second bill will give the University of Nebraska at Kearney money for construction and equipment at the youth rehabilitation and treatment center also passed the first round of debate.

“This is a very important bill for the University of Nebraska, a very important bill for Nebraska as we look at going beyond,” Sen. Robert Hilkemann said.

The measures received first-round approval but still need to pass two more times.

It is unclear when senators will be voting again, but there are only eight days left of this legislative session.

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