Over the past year, the Public Policy Center has maintained a statewide presence, with research and projects impacting every county in Nebraska. Notable projects include efforts to address school behavioral health and safety needs, youth suicide prevention, violence prevention and threat assessment efforts around the state, evaluating and expanding the 988 suicide and crisis helpline, and disaster preparedness and recovery for schools. Our research staff partner with policy makers and other stakeholders to apply rigorous academic methods and actively inform public policy. Some of the projects from the 2022-2023 year include:
- The PPC partnered with Office of Student Affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to boost efforts towards building a suicide-safe campus. It aims to develop a UNL-specific training program to teach warning signs of suicide and how to intervene, which can be adapted for a virtual setting to reach more Nebraskans.
- PPC created and manages “Building a Suicide-Safe School Community,” an online course for Nebraska schools, which trains educators and staff to assess their ability to prevent and respond to suicidal behavior and implement strategies to help students who are at risk for suicide.
- In collaboration with the PPC, the Nebraska Department of Education released two updated suicide prevention resource guides and a handbook for developing school suicide policies and procedures as part of the Youth Suicide Prevention Project.
Behavioral Health & Public Health
- The PPC marked 20 years of continuous funding for Disaster Behavioral Health planning and response in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NE DHHS). The funding has supported activities and trainings in disaster behavioral health and disaster preparedness, such as creation of the statewide Disaster Behavioral Health Response and Recovery Plan, annual statewide disaster behavioral health exercise, and curriculum development and trainings for Nebraska Psychological First Aid.
- The PPC partnered with NE DHHS on a statewide substance use prevention campaign for Nebraskans.
- The PPC has been working closely with NE DHHS to provide access to quality behavioral health trainings on topics such as health equity, recovery, ethics, telehealth, and more for many Nebraska providers. With more than 24 training sessions on record and an average attendance above 130 participants, this collaboration continues through 2023 with more trainings in the works.
- The PPC worked with NE DHHS to put together Nebraska’s 5-year Plan for HIV prevention and treatment.
School Safety, Threat Assessment, & Emergency Planning
- The PPC received funding from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) via the State Homeland Security Grant Program to design and deliver a program for clinicians and threat assessment teams in Nebraska to better understand, detect, and intervene when potential violence motivated by extremism is present.
- Supported by a $1.28 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Public Policy Center is working with Boys Town to gather and analyze data generated from phone, text, and chat to assess the effectiveness of the 988 reporting system and its impact on schools.
- The PPC has been awarded a Mental Health Awareness Training grant from SAMHSA, which started in December 2022. This four-year grant will utilize the position of local schools to meet the mental health needs of Nebraska students in grades K-12 by training educators in the evidence-based intervention of Psychological First Aid for Schools (PFA-S).
- The Nebraska Department of Education announced that it has created a comprehensive School Safety Task Force in an effort to improve school safety. Joe Wright, Director of Security at Lincoln Public Schools and Dr. Denise Bulling, Sr. Research Director at the Public Policy Center are serving as task force facilitators.
Community Engagement & Public Policy
- In collaboration with the Lincoln Community Foundation, the PPC released the 2022 Lincoln Vital Signs report in July and will release a special race, equity, and diversity issue later this year.
- The PPC collaborated with Civic Nebraska to assist with their “Crossing Divides” listening project, which aims to build understanding of Nebraskans’ views around news, media, and civil discourse.
- The PPC is facilitating the Washington D.C. Professional Enrichment Academy program, which helps students from UNL connect with NU alumni and gain valuable experience in the fields of public policy, international affairs, advocacy, STEM, business, finance, and the humanities.
- The PPC is working on evaluating the impact of six workforce development programs for the City of Lincoln, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
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