Health & Behavioral Health

The Public Policy Center works with local, state, and federal agencies on a variety of projects relating to public health and behavioral health for the state of Nebraska. In addition to program coordination and evaluation, our role includes fostering links between mental health and substance abuse resources with public health systems, healthcare networks, emergency management, and first responder groups. The Center has also performed national and statewide consultation in various areas of disaster behavioral health planning. Such activities also include evidence-based psychological first aid training as part of disaster behavioral health preparedness.

The PPC has collaborated with the state of Nebraska, behavioral health regions, and human service providers in providing training, program evaluation, and consultation regarding various aspects of human service delivery. Stakeholders from across the state and across disciplines are involved in these projects. Community groups, University organizations, public and private entities, and key organizations like the American Red Cross, Nebraska’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team, and Nebraska State Agencies collaborate with the Public Policy Center in this area.

Recent projects include: Disaster Behavioral Health, the Nebraska Strong Recovery Project, the Ryan White Project, System of Care, and the Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education (AWARE) Project.

Efforts in this area include:

  • Center staff are partnering with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to offer monthly Zoom trainings on behavioral health-related topics.
  • Developing an on-line training curriculum titled “Disaster Psychological First Aid Refresher Course” to make psychological first aid more accessible to disaster responders in-state and nationally.
  • Training Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded crisis counselors responding to various disasters across the nation (e.g., the wildfires in northern California).
  • Assisting with obtaining and evaluating federally-funded System of Care grants. Such activity evaluates the quality of services and systems for children with serious emotional disorders.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of adult, youth, and family Problem-Solving Courts throughout the state of Nebraska.
  • Training Motivational Interviewing across the U.S., Ireland, and Canada to over 2,000 clinicians, health professionals, school personnel, nurses, diabetes educators, early childhood staff, and case managers.
  • Facilitating the development of Nebraska’s State Health Improvement Plan related to coordination between behavioral health and public health services.
  • Development of model grievance procedures and human rights guidelines for persons with mental illness.
  • Partnering with the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska to plan for the mental health needs of Native American youth.
  • Evaluating Nebraska’s adult and family mental health peer support specialist certification process.
  • Facilitation and evaluation of Nebraska’s effort to enhance trauma-informed care for persons with mental illness.
  • Conducting a gap analysis for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to identify potential opportunities for behavioral health/chaplaincy collaboration.
  • National legal analysis of telehealth laws across 50 states.
  • Consulting with behavioral health administrators to evaluate the impact of changes to the service delivery system and evaluating systems for analyzing client outcomes.
  • The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center partnered with Lutheran Family Services on their effort to expand services at their Health 360 location in Lincoln to make it a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic by assisting with data collection and management, assessing services, and evaluating outcomes for individuals at the clinic.

Nebraska Strong Recovery Project

The Nebraska Strong Recovery Project is a mental health outreach program working with Nebraska communities and individuals. Outreach workers and hotlines provide community-based counseling and identify unmet needs during the COVID-19 pandemic in the state of Nebraska. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds the Crisis Counseling Program in conjunction with the Center for Mental Health Services (CMS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The PPC works collaboratively with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to implement this program statewide.

Visit the Nebraska Strong Facebook page for the latest Nebraska Strong news and events or visit the Nebraska Strong Recovery Project website for more information.

Disaster Behavioral Health Project

The goal of the Disaster Behavioral Health Project is to develop human infrastructure in Nebraska to effectively mitigate or respond to the psychosocial consequences of violence and disaster.

The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center is working with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to implement an All-Hazards Disaster Behavioral Health Response and Recovery Plan for the State of Nebraska. This includes fostering links between mental health and substance abuse resources with public health systems, healthcare networks, emergency management, and first responder groups.

Stakeholders from across the state and across disciplines are involved in this project. Community groups, faith groups, public and private entities, and key responders like the American Red Cross, Nebraska’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team, and Nebraska State Agencies are all collaborating with the Public Policy Center in this endeavor.

Learn more by visiting the Disaster Behavioral Health website.

System of Care Evaluation

The Nebraska System of Care (NeSOC) creates a comprehensive and sustainable system of care that is youth-guided, family-driven, trauma-informed and culturally responsive to improve outcomes for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances and their families. Public Policy Center researchers will work with partners to collect service-level data on individuals and families to complete an evaluation of the project. The Center worked with the national evaluation team to ensure performance measurement requirements are integrated with the local evaluation.

Using System of Care principles as a lens, the PPC conducted a needs assessment with key stakeholders in the behavioral health field to gain insight into perspectives around strengthening outcomes for youth with mental health illnesses and/or substance use disorders and their families. PPC researchers conducted 33 focus groups and interviews engaging stakeholders across the state, including family members of youth with behavioral health challenges and family organizations, probation district offices, Children and Family Services (CFS) service areas, behavioral health region personnel, and schools/educational service units.

Ryan White Project

The PPC is working with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Ryan White Program. Center researchers are assisting with quality management and improvement processes to help enhance services to Nebraskans living with HIV or AIDS. The PPC is providing webinars and technical assistance on quality improvement tools, hosting community of practice sessions and other collaborative meetings, and revised the state Ryan White Program’s Clinical Quality Management Plan.


Conference & Training Facilitation

For many of our active projects, our staff plan and execute conferences, workshops, and seminars of all sizes, virtual and in-person. This includes event management, technology recommendations, graphic design, communications, and accommodations for in-person and remote-hosted events. Additionally, staff are experienced in managing all logistics for virtual and in-person events. The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center is an approved continuing education sponsor through the American Psychological Association (APA). This means we can facilitate psychologists’ access to continuing education that meets APA standards.

Grant Development & Management

We pursue and manage funding opportunities to support policy-related initiatives. Center researchers garner both public and private funding at the local, state, and national levels for applied and translational research grants. We work closely with partners to identify funding opportunities, develop grant and contract proposal narratives, create budgets and timelines, execute agreements, manage grant funds in accordance with funder requirements, and submit required fiscal and programmatic reporting.

Program Design and Evaluation

Center research staff routinely conduct program evaluations in partnership with stakeholders to define questions, plan activities, interpret results, and use findings to recommend and implement changes. We use quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods techniques appropriate to the project. Our programmatic capabilities include survey design, interviews, focus groups, mapping geographic data, overall data analysis, and report preparation.

Project Management, Strategic Planning & Consulting

Our researchers bring high-level management expertise to projects for all kinds of organizations. We bring research-based insights to executive decision-making, develop organizational structures to achieve desired results; assist with communication planning, agenda setting and creating necessary informational materials; implement research plans; and guide open communication among stakeholders. Our researchers are trained in facilitation and regularly lead stakeholders through strategic planning, problem definition, and consensus-building, as well as discovering organizational priorities, setting goals, and creating action plans.

Scholarly Research

Our approach is rooted in academic-oriented inquiry and investigation. We provide basic research products for partners such as high-quality and easy-to-understand literature reviews, white papers, and briefing papers. Our researchers come from diverse disciplines, including: Business, Economics, Family and Consumer Sciences, Law, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. 

Stakeholder Engagement & Outreach

We work with stakeholders to design and execute customized frameworks. This includes determining the breadth, length, location, and timing of facilitated events; identifying participants; collecting data from participants throughout the planning or engagement process; creating opportunities for feedback and debriefing; and producing draft and final products based on results. In addition, many of our staff consult with outside organizations and conduct professional presentations on a variety of issues.