Behavioral Health Connection program seeks community investment
Since its start four years ago, Behavioral Health Connection has helped thousands of people access mental health and substance use services.
The free program connects individuals with existing services in the community, such as psychotherapy, support groups and psychiatric care. Behavioral health connectors assist individuals and families in identifying the type of support they need and helping them access it.
“We are connecting people with services that patients and families may not know about or cannot access,” says David Cates, PhD, director of Behavioral Health for Nebraska Medicine. “In addition, we help families overcome obstacles to accessing care, such as lack of transportation, housing instability and being uninsured.”
The program began after Jay Noddle, president and CEO of Noddle Companies, and his family struggled to identify mental health services for a family member. They subsequently approached Nebraska Medicine and helped launch Behavioral Health Connection.
“People don’t know where to start when faced with behavioral health challenges,” Noddle says. “We lived it ourselves, and realized everyone needs a single source that can provide direction and is easily accessible, well known and free.”
The Noddle family’s challenges in finding help are not uncommon, according to Dr. Cates. “Even individuals with access to resources can struggle to identify the right supports among a bewildering array of programs, services and provider types,” he says.
The program has received over 11,000 requests for help from over 7,000 individuals. As word has spread, callers from as far as California have requested information, though most individuals served live in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.
In contrast to social workers or case managers, who typically work with patients within a health care system, the program does not require individuals to be Nebraska Medicine patients.
“Anyone can call, and we will help them,” Dr. Cates says. “You don’t need to be in treatment with us or with anyone in order for us to help.”
Until now, Behavioral Health Connection has been funded by a partnership between the Noddle family and Nebraska Medicine. However, expanding funding sources will allow the program to grow, Noddle says.
“There is a limitation to what any individual, family or institution can do on their own,” he says. “There is a huge need for this program; we have proof of concept and know this works. Now, it’s time to expand the program and including other funders is critical to meeting this goal.”
Emily Tiensvold, senior director of development, clinical programs, University of Nebraska Foundation agrees and adds, “With additional donations, we can maximize the program's reach and effectiveness.”
As an example, Tiensvold points to the program’s involvement with the Nebraska Medicine Community Wellness Collaborative in North Omaha. At the new center, a behavioral health connector will regularly provide presentations on mental health resources.
“More funding could provide additional services at this location or in other under-resourced areas,” she says. “We are actively working to make sure Behavioral Health Connection is sustainable in the long term.”