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Omaha–Council Bluffs metro area health departments create partnership to address mental health needs

Residents report deficits in mental health services
Posted at 6:37 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 20:15:37-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A collaborative effort to address mental health in the metro was announced on Wednesday. It's a public–private partnership between three major health departments in the metro area and Wellbeing Partners.

With the new plan, a Regional Health Council Leadership group has been formed including the health director of Sarpy–Cass County, Sarah Schram; Douglas County Health Director, Dr. Lindsay Huse; and the planning director of Pottawattamie County, Matthew Wyant.

Sarah Sjolie with Wellbeing Partners says the need in the community is great and, according to a survey of metro residents, they feel that way too. Sjolie said that the survey revealed reports of fair or poor mental health in the metro increased.

"It worsened, compared to 2018, pretty significantly, and so, that's something we really need to pay attention to," she said.

If you break it down into geographic area, you can see that northeast and southeast Omaha reported the highest numbers of fair or poor mental health.

In addition, the metro-area reported 17% of residents said that they had fair or poor mental health in 2021; that's nearly 4% higher than the national average.

These surveys can help experts learn where they need to mobilize resources through grants and plans of action.

Sjolie said, "For the social support metric, one of the key aspects we look at is, do we have someone to turn to for help? That's that social support metric. And so within northeast and southeast Omaha we've got to improve that."

Now, thanks to a new plan drafted with the help of Wellbeing Partners and the three major health departments in the area, efforts like CHIP — which stands for Community Health Improvement Plan — can be explored.

"The CHIP priorities that were released last year — that are going to continue to run through the end of this year, then will be reassessed — are one, reducing mental health stigma. We know that there's a stigma where we live, where we work, among social groups and particularly compounded within our communities, as well," said Sjolie.

Another thing that the plan hopes to address is that mental health doesn't end with simply seeing a doctor or therapist.

Sjolie said, "I think it is very powerful as policymakers in the room, as public health experts, to look at this data because food access is mental health. Access to housing is mental health, right? Access to financial freedom is mental health. And so, we have to start treating these things are little more holistically as practitioners."

The new data will help each county assess its needs and work together to come up with solutions.

For a look at all the counties data, as well as the metro, you can find that information, as well as additional links to each health department on