A Plan to Help Children & Families in Need
By Governor Dave Heineman
Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
There has been much discussion on the issue of how to help families dealing with troubled teens and young people. This year, LB 346 would provide the help of which families asked. The proposal was recently discussed by the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 346, known as the Children and Families Support bill, was developed in response to the concerns of families seeking behavioral health services for children and teens. It calls for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to address the gap in services for children with behavioral issues by providing services that support families of these children.
The bill develops the kind of family support programs that can help parents of children with behavioral issues, while also addressing some of the gaps in Nebraska's continuum of care and services.
First, LB 346 proposes creating a statewide hotline for families dealing with behavioral and mental health challenges. The hotline would be available around the clock, and be staffed by professionals trained in mental health assessment and triage in order to provide skilled and immediate help to families.
In addition to the behavioral health crisis hotline, a family navigator program would be put in place within each of Nebraska's six behavioral health regions to provide assistance and one-on-one support to families. Family navigators would have experience and training accessing mental health services to offer recommendations and assistance to parents and guardians not familiar with the range of providers in Nebraska's behavioral health network.
A third part of LB 346 would provide services to families that have adopted or become guardians of a child with behavioral health challenges. Research indicates that up to 10 percent of adoptions dissolve and that continuing services to these new families is very effective in helping ensure the child's placement is a permanent one. This is an area where added help can make a big difference.
Case management and post-adoption services would be available on a voluntary basis to an estimated 700 families each year. Services such as child and family counseling would benefit parents and guardians of children with behavioral issues by providing the continuity and help needed to get through the transition. It would also ensure new families establish connections with resources that can be of future assistance.
I want to thank Health and Human Services Chairman, Sen. Tim Gay of Omaha, and Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha for introducing LB 346, and I appreciate the support of several senators who have signed on as co-sponsors.
Our long-term vision for Nebraska's child welfare system is to be able to provide services to the majority of children and families that allow children to remain at home rather than becoming state wards. These services put the focus on prevention and earlier intervention.