Helpline fields 35,000 calls over 8 years as Mental Health Awareness Month Begins
Lincoln, Neb. — As Mental Health Awareness month kicks-off, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Behavioral Health announced the helpline reached a new milestone: 35,000 calls, helping more than 23,000 Nebraska families statewide as the service celebrates eight years in action.
“The Nebraska Family Helpline provides support for families to deal with their immediate crisis and help them gain access to services in their area for a long-term solution,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. “Starting in 2017, we added mobile crisis response teams for Nebraska families through the System of Care. The System of Care coordinates agencies, families, and youth through meaningful partnerships to improve services, improve access to services and expand community-based
Operators identify the potential level of a behavioral health crisis, make recommendations or referrals to appropriate resources, and help callers connect to emergency resources or providers. The Helpline is supervised by licensed mental health professionals at Boys Town. Also, the Nebraska Family Helpline routinely receives calls from professionals working with families who need additional supports and/or resources, from school counselors to nurses to police officers.
“Our partnership with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has made a difference in the lives of struggling families,” said Father Steven Boes, Boys Town national executive director. “We look forward to continuing to be a resource for communities across the state and providing support to children and families during difficult times.”
The top three reasons for calling are children are out of parental control, aggressive behaviors, and school behavioral issues.
Family Helpline operators can also connect eligible families to the Family Navigator Service. This service helps families move through Nebraska’s child- and family-care system more efficiently to get the assistance they need. Available within 24 to 72 hours after a Helpline referral, Family Navigator helps families identify existing community-based services and provides support from people who have had personal experience in the system. More than 70 percent of families referred to services follow through with them, and in fact 27 percent of the Helpline calls involve follow-ups on existing cases. About 43 percent of callers are in a single-parent household.
“The times I reached out, I just needed someone to say that I wasn’t alone, that I would make it through,” said Darrell Elector, a single father of two children. “The people at the Helpline are invaluable. They give unconditional moral support and are not judgmental; they follow up on my concerns and guide me to the appropriate places. I appreciate them so much.”
“I was at my wits’ end in trying to get my daughter the help she needed when she was struggling with numerous mental health related challenges,” said another caller, who asked to remain anonymous, who was later connected to Family Navigation services. “I did not know where to turn. My mom told me about a commercial she saw that said parents could call and get help. She had taken down the number. I called the Nebraska Helpline and got referred to agencies and programs that have helped, not just my daughter, but my whole family. We are grateful that a resource like the Nebraska Helpline exists.”
The Nebraska Family Helpline, (888) 866-8660, provides a simple and direct means for families to obtain assistance with mental health issues 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Trained Helpline operators screen calls to assess immediate safety needs, and 99 percent of calls are answered in 10 seconds or less. The average call length of first-time callers is 20 minutes.
The Helpline was created in response to Nebraska’s Safe Haven crisis in 2008, which, under LB 157 of that year, allowed safe relinquishment of any minor child. While the Safe Haven statute was quickly amended with LB 1 in a special session of the legislature to specify infants 30 days old or younger, the state of Nebraska recognized the need for additional services in order to help parents and children that were not already “system involved.” Subsequently, LB 603 was passed, which created the Nebraska Family Helpline, operated by Boys Town and funded by the Nebraska Department of Human and Health Services (DHHS). The Helpline has served families in 92 out of 93 Nebraska counties, Loup County being the only exception.