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ARPA funds to assist in expansion of mental health services for children

Posted at 10:14 AM, Apr 16, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Area healthcare providers will be able to expand mental healthcare services at a crucial time.

Omaha families have struggled in recent years to find mental health care for their kids, and psychiatrists agree that options are limited.

Dr. Jennifer McWilliams, Children's Hospital division chief of Psychiatry said families have only two choices when seeking help during a mental health crisis, calling an established outpatient clinic and making an appointment, or going to an emergency department.

That's expected to change soon.

Children's Hospital and CHI Health will get $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to go towards expanding mental health services, another $1.8 million will come from a state-approved bill for expanding telehealth accessibility.

Children's Hospital staff said they will use the funds to create pediatric urgent care centers across the state.

"Here at Children's, we're excited for what this means to our children and the far-reaching impacts this will have on our communities." Bonnie Ryan, Children's Hospital spokesperson said.

CHI Health will focus on a more centralized approach by expanding their already existing Lasting Hope Center to children.

"The development of this Lasting Hope Center for Children and Families will be an all-inclusive one-stop access point for children and families in our community," Robin Conyers vice president, behavioral services CHI Health said.

Staff from both hospitals said there's been a strong push to expand mental health services in Nebraska. They believe the ARPA and state funding will speed up the process while at the same time, providing for more collaboration with the hope of achieving better, more personalized care.

"This is a challenge," Chanda Chacón, CEO of Children's Hospital said. "We need to get our arms around it and this journey we're on allows us to go more quickly down that pathway."

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