CHADRON – Leaders from the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) visited the Chadron State College campus to discuss behavioral health workforce growth initiatives with behavioral health partners Friday.
BHECN leaders, including Howard Liu, M.D., BHECN’s director and child psychiatrist, and Joe Evans, Ph.D., BHECN’s clinical director and licensed psychologist, met with educators, providers and community leaders in North Platte, Scottsbluff, Chadron and Rushville this week.
In Nebraska, 88 of 93 counties meet federal criteria for designation as Mental Health Professions Shortage Areas with more than 50 percent of the behavioral health workforce over the age of 50. This workforce includes addiction counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and nurse practitioners.
“Nebraska is faced with critical workforce shortages, leading to gaps in behavioral health services in many rural areas,” Dr. Liu said. “Our goal is to meet with stakeholders in behavioral health in western Nebraska to learn more about their workforce and training needs and to discuss solutions and programs to grow the workforce.”
BHECN’s initiatives focus on workforce development, mentoring and training programs, and integrating behavioral health professionals into primary care medical clinics.
In collaboration with the 15 behavioral health academic programs that educate the state’s licensed professionals, BHECN’s goal is to retain 50 percent of students in Nebraska.
“BHECN is invested in introducing students to careers in behavioral health and developing mentorship opportunities for trainees,” Dr. Liu said. “We are finding ways to connect students with professionals and supervised training opportunities to help shape their careers and to hopefully keep them working in Nebraska.”
BHECN established the Nebraska Counseling Collaborative, which obtained a Health Resources and Services Administration grant to fund 21 interns from counseling graduate programs at several institutions including CSC and launched a new program to train master’s level CSC counseling students to become alcohol and drug counselors, addressing the gaps in the Panhandle for addiction treatment services.
—CSC College Relations