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Ricketts, Behavioral Health Director Encourage Nebraskans to Stay Connected and Prioritize Mental Well-Being

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

At his daily coronavirus briefing on April 17, Governor Pete Ricketts encouraged Nebraskans to stay connected to friends and family during this time of increased social distancing.  He especially urged those dealing with adversity to reach out for help and counsel.

Sheri Dawson, Director of the Division of Behavioral Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), joined the Governor at today’s press briefing.  She overviewed healthy habits that contribute to mental wellness.  Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations (NABHO) Annette Dubas also took part in the press event.  She highlighted the efforts of NABHO’s members to provide continuity of behavioral health care to Nebraskans during the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, Gov. Ricketts thanked the Trump Administration for issuing guidelines to reopen parts of the economy closed by the pandemic.

Gov. Ricketts: 21 Days to Keep Nebraska Healthy

  • We are now on Day 8 of the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” campaign.
  • I want to remind people of our Six Rules to Keep Nebraska Healthy.
    • Stay home.  No non-essential errands and no social gatherings.  Respect the 10-person limit.
    • Socially distance your work.  Work from home or use the six-foot rule as much as possible in the workplace.
    • Shop alone and only shop once a week.  Do not take family with you.
    • Help kids follow social distancing.  Play at home.  No group sports.  And no playgrounds.
    • Help seniors stay at home by shopping for them.  Do not visit long-term care facilities.
    • Exercise daily at home or with an appropriately socially-distanced activity.

Gov. Ricketts: Opening Up America Guidelines

  • I appreciate President Trump’s guidelines for reopening parts of the economy that have been temporarily closed.
  • It is critical that we get people back to work safely and continue to slow the spread of the virus as the country opens up.
  • I know there will be a lot of questions about if and when Nebraska will incorporate these guidelines into our work.
  • We are currently making plans to reopen the pieces of our economy that have temporarily closed.
  • We will consider these federal guidelines as we work on our plans.

Gov. Ricketts: Mental Health

  • Social distancing is helping slow the spread of the virus, but it also has negative consequences that we all need to be mindful of.
  • Many people will experience feelings of isolation, increased depression, and a lack of social connectedness.
  • During this time of social distancing, it is important that we all stay connected.
  • I want to remind all Nebraskans that we have hotlines available for you. Please reach out if you need help:
    • Nebraska Family Helpline: 1-888-866-8660
    • Nebraska Rural Response Hotline: 1-800-464-0258
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

Director Dawson: Mental Health

  • Behavioral health is an essential part of overall health.
  • The impact of economic hardship and social isolation can take a toll on our health. 
  • A key aspect of mental well-being is social connectedness.
  • Stay connected to the people in your life. 
    • Reach out to a peer, colleague, friend, or loved one to talk about your thoughts and feelings.  Have fun and be creative. 
  • Build a routine and structure your day. 
  • Know warning signs that your mental health may be impacted.
    • Pay attention to your body and thoughts.  You might feel more irritable, angry, helpless, or sad.  You may even find it harder to concentrate, find motivation, or do the things you normally do day-to-day.  Any major change in your thoughts or behaviors can alert you to seek help.
  • Reach out for help and use the services available to you.
    • It’s a sign of wisdom and strength to ask for help, guidance, coaching, assistance, and advice related to your wellbeing.  It’s important to remember that you are not alone.
  • DHHS, working in partnership with Community Alliance in Omaha, has received notice of a five-year, $2 million per year federal grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 
    • The purpose of the grant is to test and refine an evidence-based and trauma-informed model that fully integrates physical health, mental health, substance use and recovery-oriented care, and treatment for adults with serious mental illness and chronic health conditions. 
    • The lessons learned through the grant process will be disseminated statewide.

Annette Dubas: Behavioral Health

  • The demand for mental health services is dramatically increasing.
  • Telehealth is now the desired way to deliver services.
  • NABHO’s members have quickly adapted to ensure continuity of care.
    • Community Alliance in Omaha has set up six virtual telehealth rooms so that clients in the facility can connect with their therapists to help individuals who do not have access to needed technology.
    • Children’s Hospital has moved to over 350 telehealth psychiatry and psychology sessions per week.
    • The Friendship House in Grand Island, a men’s halfway house, has set up Google Voice numbers so that clients can reach their counselors.  This gives individuals a way to reach their counselor in the event of a crisis.
    • Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska has adapted their Day Rehabilitation program to offer psychoeducational groups through phone and webconferencing.  This has allowed them to continue providing daily support and socialization to nearly 50 individuals in Grand Island and Columbus.
    • The Wellbeing Initiative and Mental Health Association of Nebraska have moved their outreach to social media and are directing people to four free support groups per week via Zoom.  They have also moved their job training education online to ensure that people have better opportunities for employment after the crisis is over.
    • The Bridge in Lincoln is continuing to provide services face to face for detox and residential services.  Their frontline workers are accepting new admissions every day and taking extra precautions to keep everyone safe and cared for.
  • These and so many other providers across this state are working tirelessly to make sure their clients’ behavioral health needs are being met.

Full video of the April 17 press briefing is available by clicking here.