Members with the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska, BHECN, based out of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, are traveling the Panhandle today and tomorrow to discuss workforce growth initiatives. Director, Dr. Howard Liu says their mission is to meet with educators, providers and community leaders to address the shortage of providers in rural areas and what can be done to improve the workforce.
Dr. Liu says, “We are going on a listening tour in the Panhandle and western Nebraska to really think about how we can support behavioral health providers that includes mental health professionals and addiction professionals, to think about their careers. How do we also encourage students, whether in high school or college and those considering these careers to get support to practice in rural areas.”
The team will visit North Platte and Scottsbluff today. Tomorrow they will travel to Chadron and Rushville.
BHECN helps fund interns at several state colleges to train and work in underserved areas, placed interns into 24 rural primary care clinics across the state, funds psychiatry resident rural rotations in several communities and is in the process of launching a new program to train master’s level drug and alcohol counselors in the Panhandle region.
In Nebraska, 88 of 93 counties meet federal criteria for designation as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas with more than 50% of the behavioral health workforce over the age of 50.
Dr. Liu says they have very good partners in Nebraska and rely and depend on them to deliver much of the health care. He says BHECN is there to support their efforts.
Dr. Liu says, “For example, we are setting up a partnership with the state to work on a new call-in – consultation line for addiction related to opioids and narcotics. We are looking at other models on how to share expertise around the state.”