Children’s receives federal funding for pediatric mental health initiatives


OMAHA, Neb. (Press Release) — The Children’s Hospital & Medical Center on Thursday announced its plans to develop, test and open innovative pediatric mental health emergency centers with $10 million in federal funding donated to the state of Nebraska through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. The Mental Health Emergency Centers, which are focused on addressing the nationwide mental health crisis and improving state-level access to care, will serve the needs of children and adolescents with locations in Omaha and Central/ Western Nebraska fair. This supplement will help provide earlier intervention across the mental health care continuum.

In addition, Children’s will receive $1.8 million from the Department of Health and Human Services for telemedicine technology to support children’s mental health initiatives. This funding was originally found in Legislative Bill 1075 (LB1075) before being changed to the ARPA budget. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed Bill 1014 (LB1014) into law Wednesday afternoon.

Children’s President and CEO Chanda Chacón, MPH, FACHE testified before the Appropriations Committee of the Nebraska Legislature in January, urging the legislature to make a significant one-time investment in pediatric mental health initiatives.

“We congratulate and thank our partners in the state government for their commitment to children’s mental health. Your support today will greatly brighten the future of many young people,” said Chacón. “This landmark decision is the result of leadership, foresight and advocacy across our team of children and peer services across the state, working together to do their part to address the unique needs of our youth.

“We are grateful to Governor Ricketts, Appropriations Committee Chairman John Stinner and HHS Committee Chairman John Arch for their support and support throughout this rigorous process. It is overwhelming to see the support of members of the Legislature who recognize the mental health crisis we face today and who have the strength to make a one-time investment that will last a lifetime. Now is the time to work with our community partners and stakeholders, and we are committed to addressing children’s mental health challenges with an innovative model of care.”

Adolescents across America are facing a mental health crisis, and national data points to an urgent need for resources and support. One in five children in the US reported experiencing a mental illness in any given year, and in 2021 alone, children’s hospitals across the country reported a 45 percent increase in self-harm and suicide cases between the ages of 5 and 17 . compared to the same period in 2019 (Sound the Alarm For Kids, 2021). Alarming trends have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, to release a recommendation and call to action last year titled “Protecting Youth Mental Health,” calling it the “Urgent Public Health Crisis”.

The $1.8 million telemedicine technology funding is a statewide investment that represents $1 per Nebrascan for expanded accessibility through integrated care that provides more immediate access to services for Nebraska’s youth.

“We are excited about the opportunity to provide greater accessibility to mental health care for children across the state of Nebraska,” said Jennifer McWilliams, MD, director of the Children’s Department of Psychiatry. “Our behavioral health team strives to work more efficiently, and telemedicine allows us to achieve that goal while meeting the important needs of our pediatric population. Telemedicine has come a long way in recent years, especially amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. These federal funds will help our team expand our expertise statewide, minimize barriers to care, and reduce acute care needs for adolescent patients and their families.”

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