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Nebraska Mental Health Services Guide

Many people don't realize that publicly-funded mental health services are available in their state. People looking for free or low-cost counseling often think their only options are counselors in private practice and don't know that publicly-funded providers in their communities may also offer counseling services. 

 

While state-based programs are not for everyone, they're often a great place to start for people who face geographic or financial barriers to therapy. Intake specialists at community mental health programs can help people learn whether they qualify for state-funded services and can refer people who don't qualify to other low-cost programs that may be able to meet their needs.


 

When Should You Go to a State Mental Health Program?

 

Few private mental health providers are able to immediately serve people in crisis, while most state mental health agencies, including Nebraska's, have crisis response systems that help people get mental health care quickly in an emergency. This usually makes public mental health services the best option if you're having a mental health crisis and need help right away. The people who answer state crisis lines can provide caring attention and support as they help you determine the best response to a crisis, whether it's inpatient treatment or an appointment with a counselor.

 

The state system offers many outpatient services. In addition to affordable therapy, publicly-funded mental health programs in Nebraska provide specialized and intensive services that aren't available anywhere else or that are hard to find in private clinics, like case management, psychosocial rehabilitation, and day treatment programs. Consider going to a publicly-funded provider if you need intensive treatment, live in an area with limited mental health resources, or can't access mental health care in the private sector due to your diagnosis or financial situation.


Who Is Eligible for Public Mental Health Services in Nebraska?

 

There are six regions in the public mental health system in Nebraska. Each region runs its mental health system a little differently. Some community mental health services in Nebraska are directly provided by regional or county governments, but most are provided by independent programs that contract with local governments to provide state-sponsored services. As a result, eligibility criteria vary widely from provider to provider and region to region in Nebraska. 

 

Publicly-funded providers in Nebraska serve clients with a wide range of mental health concerns. At many programs, you are eligible for therapy as long as you live in one of the counties the program serves. However, in order to qualify for financial assistance to help pay for therapy, you need to meet both income and clinical eligibility criteria. You are required to use insurance if you have or qualify for insurance that covers mental health services. Most providers in the public system accept both private and public insurance plans.

 

Given the regional differences in Nebraska's system, we recommend contacting the provider where you wish to receive services to find out if you are eligible. Many publicly-funded providers will give you free referrals to other providers if you don't qualify for their services.


How Can You Find Out More About Local Programs in Nebraska?

 

The best way to find out whether you can get the services you need at a publicly-funded provider in Nebraska is to call your regional authority or the specific provider you are interested in. You can also call (402) 471-7860, the main number at the state Division of Behavioral Health, for general information about the Nebraska public mental health system. 

 

We've listed numbers for Nebraska regional mental health authorities, regional crisis lines, and contracted service providers below. We got most of this information from listings on regional authority websites and the Nebraska Network of Care for Behavioral Health. Not all providers listed in public care networks contract directly with the regional system, so it's best to call and ask what services they offer, what they cost, and whether they provide financial assistance. 

 

Nebraska's Mental Health Clinics and Access Numbers

There are six regional mental health authorities in Nebraska: Region 1 in the Panhandle, Region 2 in Southwest Nebraska, Region 3 in Central Nebraska, Region 4 in Northern Nebraska, Region 5 in Southeast Nebraska, and Region 6 in the Omaha metro area. Each regional authority coordinates a network of programs that provide services for residents of their catchment areas. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are another option for public mental health care in Nebraska. These federally-funded programs provide medical and mental health services to people in underserved communities. Their goal is to deliver high-quality coordinated care to people with complex needs and to link behavioral healthcare with primary medical care. Each FQHC accepts Medicaid and Medicare and offers sliding-scale fees to people without insurance. You can search for FQHCs using the online search tool on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. 

 

How Does Nebraska's Public Mental Health System Work?

In the 1960s, Americans started thinking differently about how to treat mental health conditions. New laws required state and local governments to establish community mental health programs as alternatives to institutionalization for people with serious mental illness. Many states' public mental health programs trace their origins back to this period. Nebraska is no exception.

 

Many of the programs that are part of the public mental health system in Nebraska were founded in the late 1960s and early 1970s using funds from the Community Mental Health Centers Act, which President John F. Kennedy signed in 1963. Nebraska passed its own community mental health bill, the Nebraska Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services Act (LB302), in 1974. This law created the service regions and gave them the power to set up regional mental health networks.

 

However, Nebraska continued to rely heavily on its state psychiatric hospitals even after these community mental health laws were passed. It wasn't until Nebraska passed its mental health reform law (LB1083) in 2004 that the state began to pull its focus and funding away from state inpatient institutions and to invest more heavily in community-based mental health services. 

 

Unfortunately, despite these reforms, provider shortages and lack of funding continue to make community-based care difficult to access across much of Nebraska. Advocates, consumers, and providers have banded together to help improve access to care. In the last few years, pioneering efforts have extended high-quality mental health services even to those living in the most rural parts of Nebraska and have helped increase the number of mental health providers in Nebraska. 

 

Public mental health services in Nebraska are managed on the state level by the Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) within Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to operating the state's three psychiatric hospitals in Lincoln, Hastings, and Norfolk, DBH coordinates with the state's six regional behavioral health authorities and helps manage the statewide network of outpatient and community-based mental health service providers.

 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), only 47 percent of people in Nebraska who have mental health conditions get treatment for them. One reason for the care gap is that people aren't aware of their options for affordable mental health care, including the public mental health system. You can help change these statistics by reaching out and using your local mental health resources to get the care you need.


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