Helping Nebraskans Lead Better Lives | Opinion


The State of Nebraska makes it a priority to help Nebraskans lead better lives by promoting physical and mental health. This work took on a whole new sense of urgency during the coronavirus pandemic. Faced with the worst public health emergency in over a century, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has stepped up admirably to serve our citizens.

I couldn’t be more proud of the performance of DHHS during the pandemic. DHHS implemented our Test Nebraska program and made it available statewide. Nebraska was among the first states to offer free, no-charge testing to anyone. Test Nebraska doubled our testing capacity during the critical and early phase of the pandemic and provided over 785,000 results. Our goal was to get Test Nebraska results within 48 hours. We met and exceeded this target, averaging 35 hours between swab and result.

DHHS has coordinated with local health departments which have been overwhelmed by the volume of COVID-19 contact tracing work. DHHS has trained approximately 1,000 state teammates to conduct contact tracing. This served the dual purpose of helping people monitor their health and reducing further exposure in the community.

DHHS also quickly rolled out the Nebraska vaccination program. We have prioritized the residents most exposed to COVID-19. We have now fully immunized 89.4% of our seniors aged 65 and over. To date, we have administered 2.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Nebraska.

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Dr Gary Anthone, DHHS Director of Public Health and Chief Medical Officer of State, has been in close communication with hospitals across our state to ensure every Nebraskan has access to the care they need, when they need it. needs it. DHHS worked with hospital systems to put in place a statewide transfer plan to better manage capacity. The state has also supported hospital systems in their efforts to provide cutting-edge monoclonal antibody treatments to reduce the severity of illnesses linked to COVID-19.

All of this pandemic-related work was in addition to the day-to-day responsibilities that DHHS continued to take on to help Nebraskans lead better lives. DHHS has found innovative ways to provide these ongoing services to Nebraskans during the pandemic. Last week, we unveiled the DHHS business plan for 2021-2022. It includes 17 priority initiatives and sets targets for the current fiscal year. It also recaps the recent achievements of the agency. Here are some highlights:

DHHS uses process improvement principles to improve Medicaid health service operations. Our Medicaid health plans have exceeded their service delivery requirements. For example, these health plans have a contractual goal of processing 90% of requests within 15 days of receipt. They exceed this requirement with 95% of complaints processed within 10 working days. Likewise, our Medicaid plans have a requirement to resolve appeals within 45 days. They were able to resolve 95% of the calls in less than half that time (20 days).

The DHHS has taken a proactive approach to preventing and treating drug addiction. In 2016, DHHS, UNMC and the Attorney General’s Office entered into an innovative partnership to tackle opioid overdoses. Their coordinated efforts have helped reduce the rate of opioid prescriptions in Nebraska and reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in our state. Nebraska’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) makes it easier for drug providers to review a patient’s medication history. Nebraska became the first state in the country to require reporting of all prescription drugs to its PDMP on January 1, 2018. Patients identified as having received more than 150 doses of a short-acting opioid over a period of time. 30 day period (excluding cancer patients) are reported. Each physician who has prescribed opioids for that patient is then contacted.

DHHS has been very successful in winning federal grants to support mental health in Nebraska. The Behavioral Health Division received $ 6.7 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This grant allows us to conduct outreach activities to connect Nebraskans with counseling services and other resources. These behavioral health initiatives have helped Nebraska achieve the CDC’s lowest overdose death rate in the country and rank No.4 nationally for mental health.

The DHHS Division of Child and Family Services runs an innovative re-employment program called SNAP Next Step. This program helps food stamp recipients find better jobs. A total of 208 families have found new jobs since 2016. Of these families, 60% no longer need SNAP benefits and 40% have seen their SNAP benefits decrease. Among the families we have helped, the average monthly salary increase is $ 1,903 per month or $ 22,843 per year. This is an amazing statistic that reflects the impact of the program on life.

The Developmental Disorders Division of DHHS (DHHS – DD) is continuously raising the bar to better serve Nebraskans. For example, DHHS reimburses families participating in the Disabled Children Program and Medically Disabled Children Program for expenses such as mileage and hotels when they visit a specialist. Many families enrolled in these programs are financially disadvantaged. Long waits for a refund can be a financial hardship. DHHS – DD brought in the state’s Center of Operational Excellence to improve the way they handle refunds. By leveraging electronic / fillable forms, COE helped DHHS reduce refund processing time from 15 days to 2.67 days (on average) for an 82% reduction. This is an impressive improvement, and it makes a huge difference for Nebraska families as they manage their budgets while caring for children with disabilities.

You can find the recently published plan on the DHHS website at If you have any questions about the agency’s work to help Nebraskans lead better lives, email me at [email protected] or call 402-471-2244. I can’t wait to see what DHHS can accomplish over the next year!

Pete Ricketts is the Governor of Nebraska.

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