Mental illness has serious and often tragic consequences for those afflicted, their families and the entire community. Our knowledge of, and treatments for, mental illness have steadily advanced over the last century and with them our ability to provide more appropriate, effective care. Yet by the early 1990s, our system of care left hundreds of Nebraska patients without the level of care they needed. In 2004, the Nebraska Behavioral Health Services Act provided new direction and new opportunities to meet the mental health and substance abuse needs of people in Nebraska. With this legislation as the foundation, a coalition of community-based providers, hospitals, state personnel, elected officials, educators and community leaders came together to develop a plan to enhance and expand care and treatment for those afflicted with mental illness and or/substance abuse issues. The result is Lasting Hope Recovery Center.
The Recent History of Behavioral Health in Nebraska
- During the second half of the 20th century, Nebraska began to shift its primary focus of behavioral health treatment from state and other centralized institutions to community-based mental health services.
- By 2000, the patient count in state institutions had dropped to less than 600 from a high of 5,000 in 1956.
- During that year, the closure of Paxton Manor brought the issue of adequacy of care in our state to the forefront when about 100 of its residents were diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness.
New Legislation to Address the Need
- Governor Mike Johanns and State Senator Jim Jensen lead the effort to legislate mental health reform in order to provide options for services delivered in a more modern and flexible environment for consumers of mental health services.
- In 2004, the Nebraska Behavioral Health Service Act became law. Governor Dave Heineman has continued to support the reform initiative.
- The law transitioned Nebraska away from reliance on state-run behavioral health institutions by promoting the development and expansion of community-based services designed to meet the immediate and ongoing needs of consumers.
- Funding that had been used to provide inpatient services at two of the state’s Regional Centers was redirected to support expanded community-based services.
- Moving away from the outdated state institution model of care ensured greater access to Medicaid funding used for local behavioral health services.
A Public-Private Partnership Builds on the New Behavioral Health Law
- With this framework in mind, a public-private partnership brought together stakeholders with a shared vision to support implementation of the Nebraska Behavioral Health Service Act.
- This partnership included state Sen. Jim Jensen, State Health and Human Services senior administrators, the Region 6 administrator and board chair, the Community Alliance executive director, Alegent Health, Catholic Charities executive director, University of Nebraska Medical Center Dean of the School of Medicine, practicing psychiatrists and community leaders.
- The partners worked to develop a sustainable, integrated behavioral health delivery system for consumers and families in Region 6.
- The result of this careful, painstaking and inclusive effort is the Lasting Hope Recovery Center.