Sparrock hired as manager of Adult PES

Nebraska Medicine has made a key hire as it prepares for the opening of the Adult PES unit in August 2020

With the Adult Psychiatric Emergency Services program starting this fall, Nebraska Medicine has hired Jennifer Sparrock to manage the unit.

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Jennifer Sparrock

“Jen is a seasoned leader with extraordinary experience as the lead of an Assertive Community Treatment team working with people with serious mental illness. As the former head of social work at Nebraska Medicine, she has worked closely with leaders across the organization and statewide. She is dedicated and highly skilled at running teams,” said Dr. Howard Liu, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

Sparrock spent 17 years with Community Alliance and the last three at Nebraska Medicine. She’s currently transitioning from managing the Social Work Department at Nebraska Medicine to managing the Adult PES.

“Behavioral health is where my heart is at,” she said. “My first job out of college was working with the Boys Town National Hotline, and I’ve had many great experiences in health care and community-based systems since. I’m excited to be a part of this new program.”

Sparrock said she started hearing about the Adult PES when organizers reached out to her to discuss the role of Social Work within the unit’s work.
“The more I heard about what they were going to do, the more I wanted to be a part of the program,” she said.

Currently, Sparrock is using her contacts from her decades in behavioral health to build the best staff possible and foster the development of strong community partnerships.

“What I’m doing right now will be very different than what I will do when we open,” she said. “Right now, it’s a lot of recruitment and program development. Once August hits, then we will be seeing and treating patients, and my role will switch to more overseeing the unit.”

Sparrock said the goal of the Adult PES is to provide immediate help and show the patient the vast number of community-based programs available to them, so the patients can continue to get help outside an emergent/crisis situation.

“We want to help people and then link them to what they need to be successful in our community,” Sparrock said. “We see the PES as a place where you can get help in a crisis and feel better when you leave.”
Dr. Ashish Sharma will be the Medical Director of the Adult PES.

Spotlight: Malcolm McGruder

Community Service Tech

Malcolm is a graduate of UNL with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice. He is part of the Behavioral Health Connections team which just celebrated its first year of service. Prior to his time with Behavioral Health Connections, Malcolm held several roles working with people: direct support staff, teacher, job coach, and a DHHS Developmental Disabilities Service Coordinator.

Why did you decide to apply for a job with the behavioral connections team?
I have always had good experiences with UNMC. I want to continue that tradition for others as well as aid others in their journey to be the best versions of themselves.

What do you enjoy about working in the department of psychiatry?
What I enjoy most about working in the Psychiatry department is the level of commitment and excitement to help whoever needs and wants it. Everyone is also very personable and knowledgeable.

How has Behavioral Health Connections grown in its first year?
I had the pleasure of seeing how the Behavioral Health Connections has grown substantially within its first year. While behavioral health resources are highly desired but difficult to navigate, the various experiences of mine, as well as my co-workers, have been instrumental in growing the program and in providing services for Nebraska Medicine patients and physicians as well as the greater community. We continue to establish and maintain our rapport with various community organizations as many people find great value in the services we provide. Many community organizations continue to put their faith in our services.

How do you help the Treatment-Resistant Depression group?
As a community support technician, I help TRD patients by gathering various resources available to them. I’m currently in the process of developing a resource packet that has information ranging from various forms of treatment including exercise, nutrition, and TMS to a variety of community resources including financial assistance and employment training.

What are some of your hobbies?
In my free time, I enjoy playing guitar, lifting, coaching wrestling, spending time with friends and family, and watching movies.

Faculty members honored by APA

The American Psychiatric Association has honored three Department of Psychiatry faculty members by naming each of them an APA Distinguished Fellow.

Faculty members Dr. Sheritta Strong, Dr. Steven Wengel and adjunct faculty member Dr. Martin Wetzel were named Distinguished Fellows. According to the APA, the Distinguished Fellowship is awarded to outstanding psychiatrists who have made significant contributions to the psychiatric profession in at least five of the following areas: administration, teaching, scientific and scholarly publications, volunteering in mental health and medical activities of social significance, community involvement, as well as for clinical excellence. Distinguished Fellow is the highest membership honor the APA bestows upon members. Excellence, not mere competence, is the hallmark of an APA Distinguished Fellow.

“It is an honor, and it is humbling, to join the ranks of other Distinguished Fellows in Nebraska! I very much appreciate the support of my colleagues in the Nebraska Psychiatry Society for supporting me in this,” said Dr. Wengel.

As a geriatric psychiatrist, Dr. Wengel enjoys hearing his patients tell of their triumphs over challenges across the years and is often impressed by the resilience shown by older adults in the midst of stresses like caring for an ill spouse or facing their own health problems. He was Chair of the Department of Psychiatry from 2005 thru February 2018 and is currently Division Director for the Geriatric Division.

Dr. Strong is an adult psychiatrist whose primary interests are the treatment of chronic and persistent mental illness and increasing the community awareness of mental illness. Nationally, Dr. Strong has presented on educational strategies and won the American Psychiatric Association’s Nancy C.A. Roeske, M.D. Award, which is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding and sustaining contributions to medical student education. In February 2020, she was named UNMC Interim Director of Inclusion and Diversity.

Dr. Wetzel began practicing in Omaha and the Lincoln area in 1992, first with Nebraska Methodist Health System and then as a specialist in Adult ADHD at UNMC. Dr. Wetzel is the author of numerous articles on Adult ADHD and lectures extensively on the topic.

Dr. Sheritta Strong
Dr. Steven Wengel
Dr. Martin Wetzel