Children’s Receives Federal Funding for Pediatric Mental Health Initiatives

Chanda with Lawmakers Mental Health

LB1014 allocates $10 million from the American Rescue Plan Act for pediatric mental health urgent care centers

Omaha, Neb. – Children’s Nebraska announced Thursday its plans to develop, pilot and open innovative pediatric mental health urgent care centers with $10 million in federal funding allocated to the state of Nebraska by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. The mental health urgent care centers, focused on addressing the nationwide mental health crisis and improving access to care at the state level, will serve the needs of children and teens with locations in Omaha and Central/Western Nebraska. This addition will help provide earlier intervention across the mental health care continuum.

Additionally, Children’s will receive $1.8 million in funding from the Department of Health and Human Services for telehealth technology to support pediatric mental health initiatives. That funding was originally found in Legislative Bill 1075 (LB1075) prior to being amended to the ARPA budget. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed Legislative Bill 1014 (LB1014) into law Wednesday afternoon.

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

“We congratulate and thank our partners in state government for their commitment to children’s mental health. Their support today will significantly brighten many young people’s tomorrows,” Chacón said. “This milestone decision is the result of leadership, foresight and advocacy across our team at Children’s and peer institutions around the state who are working together to do their part to address the unique needs of our youth.

“We are grateful for the support and endorsement of Governor Ricketts, Appropriations Committee chairman John Stinner and HHS Committee chairman John Arch during this stringent process. It is overwhelming to see the support from members of the Legislature who recognize the mental health crisis we are facing today and have the fortitude to make a one-time investment that will last a lifetime. The time is now to collaborate with our community partners and stakeholders, and we are committed to addressing mental health issues for children with an innovative model of care.”

Youth across America are facing a mental health crisis, and national data signals a critical need for resources and support. One in five U.S. children report having experienced a mental health condition in a given year, and in 2021 alone, children’s hospitals across the country reported a 45% increase in the number of self-injury and suicide cases in 5- to 17-year-olds 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, M.D., MBA, to issue an advisory and call to action titled “Protecting Youth Mental Health” last year, calling it an “urgent public health crisis.”

The $1.8 million in telehealth technology funding is an investment across the state, representing $1 per Nebraskan for expanded accessibility through integrated care that will offer more immediate access to services for Nebraska youth.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to create greater accessibility for mental health care for children across the state of Nebraska,” Jennifer McWilliams, M.D., Children’s division chief of Psychiatry, said. “Our Behavioral Health team is committed to working more efficiently, and telehealth allows us to achieve that goal while serving the important needs of our pediatric population. Telehealth has taken off in recent years, especially amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. This federal funding will aid our team in expanding our expertise across the state, minimizing barriers to care and reducing acute care needs for youth patients and their families.”

Further information on Children’s plans for the mental health urgent care centers and expanded telehealth will be shared as plans continue to develop.

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