New program connects community with behavioral health services

Pictured from left to right are David Cates, PhD, director, Behavioral Health; Celeste Akers, lead BHC navigator; Howard Liu, MD, chair of Psychiatry; Yevette Henderson, BHC navigator; Donald Roman, BHC navigator and Maggie Milner, manager, Psychiatry clinic.

Nebraska Medicine Behavioral Health and the UNMC Department of Psychiatry have started a new program, Behavioral Health Connection. The new program is up and running and is designed to help medical center patients and other members of the Omaha-Council Bluffs community connect with necessary behavioral health and substance use disorder services.

Behavioral Health Connection offers one main call-in number, 402-836-9292, which callers can talk to one of the three-member BHC staff and get referrals to resources they need or be connected to relevant services in the community – services that may include medical, psychiatric, substance use disorders, psychological, psychopharmacological, social, educational, peer support and housing.

“We can provide information and help on how to fill out things connected to social service or benefits programs, such as mental health support programs, Medicaid or disability,” says Celeste Akers, lead BHC navigator. “We may offer help getting referrals to a certain program, or callers can make an appointment to get help with paperwork they may need to file to access certain benefits or services.”

The program will even offer information on transportation options and information on financial assistance to get prescription medication.

“We have been working with a generous donor for the past year and are excited to see this program come to fruition,” says David Cates, Ph.D., director, Behavioral Health. “We are hoping to improve behavioral health in our community by removing common obstacles to care and making it easier for individuals with behavioral health disorders and their families to connect to available resources.”

The goal of the privately funded program is to address lack of familiarity with available mental health and social services, poor coordination of care among providers, lack of transportation to needed services and difficulty obtaining medications.

“We are fortunate to have assembled a highly experienced and motivated team to launch our new Behavioral Health Connection program,” says Dr. Cates. “We will be tracking a variety of process and outcome measures, including the number and types of services referred, whether or not clients connected to those services, client ZIP codes, etc., and working with our donor to refine and hopefully expand the program.”

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