Catholic Charities of Omaha

Organization Name: Catholic Charities of Omaha

Mission: As a Christ-centered organization, and with mercy as the foundation of the Church, we translate the Gospel of Jesus Christ into action and seek to transform the world by sharing God’s mercy and compassionate love with all people.

Funded Program Description: Our program targets youth and young adults ages 6-25 attending rural and urban Catholic schools and a Newman Center college residence hall within the Archdiocese of Omaha. All schools are part of the Catholic School District, which provides education for 19,831 students in 17 high schools and 53 elementary schools across a 23-county region in Northeastern Nebraska. It is the fourth largest school district in Nebraska by enrollment and the largest district by area. Youth served represent all faiths, ages, genders, and socioeconomic circumstances.

Schools receive structured services in-person and via telehealth during the school year and crisis response services as needed. Additionally, staff and administrators receive mental health education, coping skills trainings and education on techniques for suicide prevention. This past year has been a unique experience for all schools with the transition to virtual learning in March of 2020. Our therapists continued all services without interruption by quickly transitioning to a telehealth platform. It is clear that the current pandemic has taken a toll on the social and emotional health of our youth. Because of the impact we were seeing in youth and families at the end of the school year, we continued telehealth services throughout the summer at no charge to the schools in an effort to support families experiencing on-going mental health challenges.

Though services are open to all, many of those we serve are living in poverty or lack of resources. We also serve many immigrant youth. These families lack access to government programs (such as Medicaid) that could help them receive mental health services. Rural youth struggling with mental health disorders may live several hours from the closest therapist. Our urban schools are home to high rates of poverty, making mental health services inaccessible. Some of the families we serve lack health insurance; or, have health insurance, but aren’t able to afford co-pays for services or medication. Poverty and location aren’t the only barriers to care. Nationwide, mental health is still largely misunderstood at every age group. This is especially devastating for youth in the trenches of a mental health disorder battle. Parents may not notice their child is struggling. And even if they do, they may not recognize the importance of treating their child’s mental health disorder.

Successes of Program or Inspirational Stories: Grade School: Upon intake to the program, the client was having daily suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviors, severe depression and anxiety to the point where it affected her ability to go to school. She was often truant and her teachers and parents struggled to get her to attend on a daily basis. Once therapy began and a safety plan was developed, she felt more comfortable talking to her therapist about her depression and anxiety. The therapist was in constant communication with her Mother and worked collaboratively with a psychiatrist. Ultimately, the family decided medication was needed to help keep her suicidality manageable. Eventually, her suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviors stopped, and her affect noticeably brightened. The combination of medication and therapy was effective, and she began attending school regularly, engaging in extracurricular activities, social events, and has passing grades in all of her classes. 

High School: Student referred for social anxiety. Teachers were concerned because she hardly participated in class or with her peer group. In social settings, it was reported that she would withdraw or cry at times. She was plagued by constant worry that others did not like her or were judging her in a negative way. Through therapy, she has been able to gain a more balanced view of herself and more confidence in social situations. She was able to challenge her thoughts that others did not like her. Teachers now report that she is participating fully in class and guidance counselors have noticed an improvement in her interactions with friends at school. In fact, she excitedly reported that she has made and maintained new friendships. Her parents, in particular, are relieved with her progress. They emailed, “we have noticed that [client] has been more upbeat at home. She seemed to be more involved with her friends and other activities as well. We are very glad she’s making progress. Thanks again!”

Other Comments: We are incredibly grateful for The Kim Foundation’s legacy of support. Your crucial financial leadership fostered the development of this program that, to date, has directly and indirectly touched thousands of lives. On behalf of the students, families, teachers and administrators we’ve served, we offer a humble thank you.

Contact Information:

Joan E. Huss;  MA, LIMHP, LADC
Senior Director, Program Services
Phone: 402-829-9304