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Nebraska Chosen for SAMHSA Competency Program
Nebraska Ag Connection - 03/12/2019

Nebraska has been chosen for a national program that assists state teams to focus on legal, clinical, and systemic issues, best practices and collaborative solutions.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has accepted the state for the GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation's Competency to Stand Trial/Competency Restoration Learning Collaborative. The Collaborative brings together national experts, state and local teams in a blend of virtual and onsite events to learn best practices and create implementation strategies.

"Given the number of system partners involved, as well as the shared responsibility for aspects of competency restoration, we recognize that SAMHSA's Competency to Stand Trial/Competency Restoration Learning Collaborative will provide a unique opportunity for Nebraska to approach this challenge," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health.

"Nebraska has been making efforts to increase availability of competency restoration beds, explore statutory solutions related to competency restoration in less restrictive environments, and to streamline competency restoration treatment," said Mark LaBouchardiere, facilities director for DHHS. "We are eager to collaborate with national experts in competency restoration services and develop data-driven solutions in line with best practices."

The learning collaborative will begin early May with a two-day virtual event and be followed by on-site technical assistance and monthly planning meetings/calls. Partners from DHHS, the court system, defense attorneys, prosecutors, jails, community mental health providers have worked to address existing challenges. The Nebraska DHHS Division of Behavioral Health will engage system partners such as Behavioral Health Regions 5 and 6, Douglas County, Lancaster County, Nebraska State Court Administrator, Justice Representatives, the Mental Health Association, and others.

Dr. Jennifer Cimpl Bohn, a clinical psychologist at the Lincoln Regional Center, will serve as Nebraska's team leader, and Linda Wittmuss, deputy director of the Division of Behavioral Health, will be the DBH Community Services lead.

Like the Division of Behavioral Health's recently announced pilot project in Region 6 (Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington Counties) to create a registry of available psychiatric beds and decrease patient wait times, the GAINS Center collaborative is intended to reduce the amount of time that individuals wait for competency services.

At present, in Nebraska, competency evaluations can be provided on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Those who are ruled incompetent must undergo competency restoration services. In Nebraska, competency restoration services must be provided in a state-owned or operated facility -- namely, the Lincoln Regional Center (LRC), one of the state's three psychiatric hospitals. The goal is to decrease current wait times for individuals found incompetent and ordered to participate in competency restoration. Outcome metric development is also included in the learning collaborative program.

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