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University of Nebraska Public Policy Center

Governor’s Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services contracted with the Public Policy Center to administer this project. The Governor’s initiative was designed to develop an integrated system of mental health care using a collaborative network of existing providers and new services that fill critical gaps in the current system for young children (prenatal to five years) with behavioral/emotional issues and their families in seven central Nebraska counties. This effort was based on research indicating that the emotional wellness of young children is fostered in secure, warm relationships with parents and other caregivers and critical to healthy early development and later school success. For children with early signs of distress and behavioral challenges, appropriate and early intervention strategies can prevent a lifetime of increasingly intense and complex problems. The system of care incorporated the following principles:

  • Child focused and family centered
  • Culturally responsive
  • Community based
  • Comprehensive, coordinated and integrated
  • Committed to continuous improvement and reflective supervision

Project Objectives
This system of care was lead by the Mary Lanning HealthCare Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation, concerned with both resource and fund development and community health care initiatives. New services developed through the project included:

  • Depression screenings for mothers in the perinatal period through obstetrical caregivers
  • Home visitation for families of children six weeks to 3 months by training volunteers from churches and other community organizations
  • Capacity for early childhood assessments by training primary health nurses
  • An early childhood center with resource library, a 1-800 number, and telehealth capacity for mental health consultations
  • On–site mental health consultation and training for child care providers and preschools
  • Coordination of wraparound and family support training of child care providers
  • A Community Advisory Board and Executive Board to coordinate early childhood mental health services in the seven county area

Key Partners

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