The New Nebraska Family Helpline
Parents said they didn’t know where to go for help… Before an age limit was added in late 2008, more than 30 children were dropped off under Nebraska’s safe haven law. Most of the children dropped off were teens or preteens with mental, emotional and behavioral problems. Although most had received behavioral health services, some said they didn’t know where to turn for help. As a result, LB603 was passed in 2009 and focused on making behavioral health and other services for children and teens more accessible.
After LB603 was passed, the state of Nebraska, in collaboration with Boys Town, developed the Nebraska Family Helpline and Family Navigator Service. This new helpline is to assist the caller in identifying resources, provide referrals and connect Nebraska families with the help they need when dealing with their child’s behavioral health problems. The helpline is run by Boys Town and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with trained health professionals taking the calls.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Behavioral Health Manager, Maya Chilese, said the helpline is beneficial, as well as a starting point for finding the services families may need when caring for their youth with a severe emotional disorder or youth mental disorder. The process includes a call to the helpline where a trained professional can help with a crisis and/or identify possible formal and informal supports. After the needs are assessed, the helpline operator will either provide the family with available resources or suggest the Family Navigator Service when appropriate.
The Family Navigator Service is directed through the Nebraska Family Helpline. If a parent or family member is concerned about a child experiencing a severe emotional disorder, or is just overwhelmed with initiating the process of sifting and navigating a way into the child and family-care system, he or she could be assigned a Family Navigator. A Family Navigator is a peer family member who can offer compassion and support and help connect the family to existing community based services with a one on one meeting. A Navigator will call the family member within 24 to 72 hours to arrange a meeting time and place. This is a short-term service intended to empower and connect the family comfortably and knowledgeably into the system. The Navigators are available throughout the state and staffed through Boys Town via agencies like Healthy Families Project, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Nebraska Family Support Network.
The helpline also provides 3-way calls and conferencing to be online with the family while contacting a provider or resource, and offers follow-up calls to make sure the family is getting the assistance it needs and useful resources are being provided. The Nebraska Family Helpline is an independent service funded by the state of Nebraska. The professionals are employees from different agencies and not government workers. The helpline is intended to be a starting point and one-call access to help with a crisis, assessment of needs, and referral of services and resources for children with behavioral and mental health problems. Families can call 888-866-8660 or go to www.nebraskafamilyhelpline.ne.gov