Behavioral Health & Substance Use Services

The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center is celebrating 25 years in policy and research. We have collaborated with many partners to bring about real-world solutions in our communities. As a university-wide, multidisciplinary research and outreach unit, we are committed to addressing complex issues by linking academic research, stakeholder perspectives, and practical experience through innovative and creative solutions.

A primary focus is to foster links between mental health and substance use disorder resources with public health systems, healthcare networks, emergency management, and first responder groups.

Here’s a highlight of some of the work that has resulted from these partnerships:

The Choose You Campaign

The Public Policy Center (PPC) partnered with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NE DHHS) on a statewide substance abuse prevention campaign. It featured people from around the Nebraska telling their stories about why they choose to live substance free and included print media, video, television advertisements, window clings, and posters distributed around the state. The Choose You video campaign received over 600,000 impressions on YouTube and the digital audio campaign made over one million impressions. In addition, PPC researchers coordinated five virtual trainings for prevention professionals on topics related to substance use for 233 unique participants representing 44 agencies or organizations. More than 130 project partners and representatives from all of Nebraska’s state behavioral health regions convened in January 2023 at a virtual summit to review the goals and objectives of the campaign and receive training on how to implement the Choose You marketing campaign statewide. Learn more at

Nebraska State Opioid Response

The Nebraska State Opioid Response (SOR) program began in October 2019 and is funded federally through a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant. Spearheaded by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services - Department of Behavioral Health (DHHS-DBH), the SOR program is a data-driven initiative that is embedded within ongoing state efforts to work with communities and develop more comprehensive evidenced-based programs addressing opioid and stimulant use and overdose in Nebraska. Given its data-driven nature, SAMHSA requires periodical review of its performance data to assess progress and improve its application. With that goal in mind, the DHHS-DBH partnered with the PPC to evaluate the outcomes and impacts of the SOR program.

The Public Policy Center continues to serve as the program evaluator for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and system partners to implement comprehensive evidence-based programs in prevention, treatment, and recovery. Prevention initiatives include public media campaigns, opioid use disorder provider training, medication collection and disposal program, and distribution of Naloxone kits. Medical Assisted Treatment (MAT) 101 training for providers and funding of treatment services fall under this program's treatment initiatives. While recovery initiatives include training individuals engaged in peer support and Oxford Houses.

Expanding Childhood Behavioral Health

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) Partnership for Mental Healthcare focuses on Pre-K children’s mental health and expanding behavioral health services, especially in rural areas. This three-part effort by Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services includes supporting early childhood educators with evidence-based curriculum and professional development related to mental health and social emotional well-being and development; increasing the number of providers who, through continuing education, can serve the mental health needs of children and youth in rural areas; and improving transitions between mental health care and school settings, focused on youth-driven and family-centered planning. The Public Policy Center supports implementation of these strategies by partnering with early educators, supporting the professional development needs of mental health clinicians, and facilitating community conversations related to student transitions in care. 

Behavioral Health Training

The Public Policy Center (PPC) has been working closely with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Behavioral Health to provide access to quality behavioral health trainings for Nebraska providers at no cost. The trainings cover a variety of topics such as substance use, ethics, peer support, health equity, serving youth and families, and more. With more than 30 training sessions on record which average above 130 participants in attendance, this collaboration continues through 2023 with more trainings on the horizon. Upcoming trainings can be found alongside recordings of previous sessions on the website, also created and managed by the PPC.

Behavioral Workforce Development

The Public Policy Center is collaborating with the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) to develop a pipeline between the medical center and behavioral health entities in an effort to recruit behavioral health students to train and complete rounds at correctional centers and state hospital facilities. The aim of this collaborative effort with the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Health and Human Services Regional Centers is to develop and offer training programs for students, in order to increase the numbers of medical and behavioral health professionals in correctional and state hospital settings. The participants are graduate-level trainees in psychiatric nursing, counseling, physician assistants (PAs), social work, and psychology. As of 2023, 101 trainees participated in the program and 19 students were hired to full-time positions after placements (UNMC).