- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska legislative committee has released a report recommending more oversight of how the state addresses access and funding issues with mental health services.

The Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1jwXcIc ) reports that the Performance Audit Committee released the report Monday. The audit was authorized in February after concerns about identifying service gaps were raised after the state’s 2004 transition to community-based services.

The Performance Audit Committee, chaired by Sen. Dan Watermeier, said more study is needed to figure out ways to reduce gaps. The committee says it will introduce a resolution to create an ongoing behavioral and mental health oversight committee.

Watermeier says that oversight is important partially because behavioral health services affect policy areas that are beyond the Department of Health and Human Services’ purview, including prison reform.

Mental health regional administrators have cited several problems in services, including gaps in care for people with more than one mental illness, insufficient help for people to find appropriate homes and a lack of psychiatric emergency systems in some areas.

Deputy Platte County Attorney Elizabeth Lay told the audit committee in October that county attorneys are “very frustrated” with having people with mental illnesses end up in jail or prison due to a lack of services and resources.

The committee said funding options should also be explored to reduce gaps in mental health services as well.

The committee said it will draft a bill to reinforce a requirement for the behavioral division of the state Department of Health and Human Services to complete a needs assessment. The department says the efforts have already been made to address the gaps mentioned in the report, but that there was still much more work to be done.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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