The Nebraska Legislature has been in session since January, and things are in full swing as we move beyond halfway through the session. While the Legislature is taking a long holiday weekend coming up, there are plenty of bills that have been introduced and prioritized that we are following. I will only focus on the bills that have been prioritized, but for a full list of bills or greater details of the bills listed here, please visit the Legislature’s website at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/.
The final decisions on the budget have been made and will be introduced this week, but we expect to see a 2% increase for behavioral health services across the board for those providing services through Medicaid.
LB247, which was introduced by Senator Pansing Brooks and prioritized by Speaker Hilgers, creates a Mental Health Crisis Hotline Task Force. As many of you know the state received the implementation grant for the new suicide 988 hotline number, and this task force would provide oversight for the roll out of the hotline. Once implemented, 988 will provide community members a quick, safe way to reach a crisis counselor without having to remember the full hotline number. The idea being it would be similar to 911, which we all have known by heart since we were young children. This is an exciting development, and we are excited to see how this goes!
There are several bills pertaining to the youth residential treatment centers (YRTC) in our state. They will likely be grouped together in what is considered a “Christmas Tree Bill” and move forward. There has been incredible concern over the last several years about our current YRTCs in the state, so ideally these bills will work to improve the YRTCs and provide better treatment for the youth of Nebraska.
Another bill of focus for the foundation and those in the behavioral health and education realms is LB322. This would adopt the School Safety & Security Reporting System Act. Through the Department of Education, a statewide anonymous reporting system would be established that would support threat assessment to reduce acts of violence in both private and public schools. What they have found in the pilot of this program is that many youth are also reporting suicide threats or ideation of friends through this line, so it’s another incredible resource to ensure the safety of our youth. Senator Williams has prioritized this bill.
LB400 & LB487 were introduced and prioritized by Senator Arch and deal with pay equity for telehealth services. As COVID hit, it was more clear that we needed a more robust telehealth service system and that it be reimbursed equitably to in person services. LB400 deals with Medicaid reimbursement, and LB487 deals with private insurance.
Finally, Senator Walz introduced LB529 and the Education Committee has prioritized this bill. It will allow for changes to provisions for the distribution of lottery funds used for education among other things. Two sections of this bill in particular allow for behavior intervention training and teacher support through the Educational Service Units in our state, as well as a section creating a behavioral health point of contact in each school building. This could go a long way in ensuring increased access to services for youth and families throughout Nebraska.
We will be watching the next several weeks intently as these bills move to the floor for debate. We encourage you to reach out to your Senator and support any of these bills, or others, you feel strongly about. Oftentimes people don’t reach out because they either don’t know how or feel their one voice won’t make a difference, but together, we can truly make a difference and be heard so that Nebraskans continue to have increased access to quality behavioral health services. For more information on how to reach out to your Senator click here: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/committees/public-input.php.
Finally, if you’re looking for an easy way to support The Kim Foundation we have just the thing! We have been selected by Hy-Vee as their non-profit supported during the month of April with every red “My Heart” reusable bag purchased! So all you have to do is visit the Hy-Vee on 156th & Maple in Omaha and purchase a red “My Heart” reusable shopping bag for $2.50 and The Kim Foundation receives $1.00 of each bag purchase!
Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation
Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board and the Project Propel Planning Group.