LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — A new partnership between the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Behavioral Health (DBS) and the Nebraska Medical Association (NMA) is in the works to increase access to behavioral health treatment in the State of Nebraska. The plan is to integrate behavioral health into the existing framework of physical healthcare providers in the state.
The plan is currently in an initial needs assessment phase in order to identify the areas of greatest necessity.
The Nebraska Medical Association will provide much of the on-the-ground training to providers and prescribers, including mentoring and on-site consulting.
The integration of behavioral health is a key pillar of the Division of Behavioral health's three-year upcoming strategic plan for the 2022 to 2024 period. The five pillars that the strategic plan centers on are influence, integration, inclusion, innovation and value.
“The purpose of this exciting new project is to innovate coordination of and service access to healthcare resources especially in rural Nebraska,” Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS, said in a press release. “We know that behavioral health is essential to overall health..."
Dawson stated that patients with mental illness and substance use disorders are more likely to have physical chronic conditions, and the progression of illness leads to a higher likelihood that greater levels of care such as hospitalization and emergency services will be required.
A striking point will be an increase in integration between mental health providers and substance use treatment provider, and in primary care settings and not only reliance on crisis services, in an effort to reduce ER utilization. This will include public and private healthcare providers for a variety of strata including adult, youth and family services.
Amy Reynoldson, executive vice president of the Nebraska Medical Association, is also working with a board-certified psychiatrist, Todd Stull, on the comprehensive project.
"In rural Nebraska, many of our physicians are general practitioners, and we want to assist and encourage them to expand access to behavioral health," said Reynoldson in the same press release. "We are partnering with DHHS to develop the tools and competencies needed for success.”
The Nebraska Medicine Association also plans to provide resources to coordinate with healthcare providers who are open to conducting more behavioral health assessments but may not be fully capable of transitioning to an integrated health model yet.
Following the integration phase of the DBS's strategic plan's progress, the partnership will aim to address disparities in service and increase health equity throughout the newly integrated healthcare systems and establish standard outcomes that are accessible for a diverse range of patients.
Dawson briefly mentioned that funding for the new behavioral health implementation came from a variety of resources including Medicaid expansion, emergency COVID-19 grants and state opioid response grants.