Nearly 70 percent of Nebraska counties do not have an addiction counselor, according to the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
BHECN wants to increase the number of addiction counselors in the state, and Dr. Howard Liu, Center director, says they are working with the state to get more professionals into rural areas.
“For example, at Chadron (State College), we have a collaboration with them to increase the rural LADACes – licensed alcohol drug abuse counselors – from that area,” Liu tells Nebraska Radio Network, “in particularly working with Pine Ridge (Indian Reservation) and that community, to see if we can get some of those (college) students to go into these addiction careers.”
BHECN data also shows 12 other counties in the state only have one addiction counselor.
“There’s a huge need,” Liu says. “Another project we’re working on with the state Department of Health and Human Services is setting up sort of a state consultation line for opioid addiction.”
He says mentoring new professionals and providing support to them are key to stabilizing the rural workforce.
One idea he has to help is establishing a biweekly conference call.
“The first part of that will be some sort of teaching update on ways to manage addiction,” Liu explains. “The second half will be the ability for providers to call in with questions they have about patients who they’re struggling with – so, what’s the next step to really trying to get someone off of these painkillers that they’re heavily addicted to.”
Liu says they also want to provide training so more providers can prescribe the drug that counteracts opioid addiction.
AUDIO: Mike Loizzo reports [:35]