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DHHS announces grant for COVID-19 related substance abuse issues

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been awarded a $2 million COVID-19 related grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

On April 1, SAMHSA released a funding opportunity for emergency grants to address mental and substance use disorders during COVID-19. In response, the DHHS's Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) responded to the one-time-only funding announcement with an application for $2 million in COVID-19 related aid. Funds are restricted to direct treatment and recovery activities to Nebraskans impacted by COVID-19 and served after the date of award.

“We know that during this unprecedented health crisis, it can be challenging for those with mental health and substance use disorders to access treatment. Nebraskans, now more than ever, need to reach out to improve their overall health," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “With this grant, we are planning to take two approaches to expanding capacity to behavioral health services and treatment so that we are able to serve those in need."

The primary effort will be to expand capacity across Nebraska's public behavioral health system to increase access to outpatient assessment and psychotherapy and peer support for individuals who experience serious mental illness (SMI), individuals with substance use disorders (SUD), and/or individuals with co-occurring SMI and SUD, and medication management (including medication assisted treatment for substance abuse disorder).  The additional expanded capacity will also be available to serve individuals with mental health illnesses that are less severe than SMI, including those in the healthcare professions.

Reaching individuals in the healthcare professions will require a different approach than has typically been employed by DBH. DBH is proposing to build on the existing communication channels utilized by various professional and medical associations to communicate the availability of the behavioral health services to their members.

Service funds are proposed to be incorporated into contracts and subawards with Regional Behavioral Health Authorities, tribal authorities, peer-run organizations and medical and social service organizations for healthcare providers, first responders and other essential personnel to provide access to services and supports that cannot be met with other resources such as private insurance, employee assistance programs or Medicaid. The DBH is also proposing to expand the contracts for capacity with peer run organizations in the state to increase access to family navigator, family peer support, and peer support services to provide recovery support services, individual support services and referrals for resource assistance for childcare, vocational, educational, linkages to housing services, and transportation services; services which will improve access to, and retention in services.

Nebraskans in need of help can call the Nebraska Family Helpline at (888) 866-8660; the Rural Response Hotline at (800) 464-0258; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.