The Legislature finds that there are insufficient behavioral health professionals in the Nebraska behavioral health workforce and further that there are insufficient behavioral health professionals trained in evidence-based practice. This workforce shortage leads to inadequate accessibility and response to the behavioral health needs of Nebraskans of all ages: Children; adolescents; and adults. These shortages have led to well-documented problems of consumers waiting for long periods of time in inappropriate settings because appropriate placement and care is not available. As a result, mentally ill patients end up in hospital emergency rooms which are the most expensive level of care or are incarcerated and do not receive adequate care, if any.
As the state moves from institutional to community-based behavioral health services, the behavioral health services workforce shortage is increasingly felt by the inability to hire and retain behavioral health professionals in Nebraska. In Laws 2004, LB 1083, the Legislature pledged to "promote activities in research and education to improve the quality of behavioral health services, the recruitment and retention of behavioral health professionals, and the availability of behavioral health services". The purpose of the Behavioral Health Workforce Act is to realize the commitment made in LB 1083 to improve community-based behavioral health services for Nebraskans and thus focus on addressing behavioral health issues before they become a crisis through increasing the number of behavioral health professionals and train these professionals in evidence-based practice and alternative delivery methods which will improve the quality of care, including utilizing the existing infrastructure and telehealth services which will expand outreach to more rural areas in Nebraska.