YORK — There has been a shortage of rural behavioral health resources, but for 50 years Blue Valley Behavioral Health has been helping fill that void.
Blue Valley Behavioral Health (BVBH) is responsible for 15 counties and 11 rural offices – plus an office in Lincoln.
“We’re Nebraska’s largest rural behavioral health organization,” said Jon Day, BVBH Executive Director.
And the need is there. According to the UNMC College of Public Health, 1 in 5 Nebraskans reported some type of mental health illness in 2016, with only 47% of adult Nebraskans with mental illness receiving treatment. As a rural entity, BVBH see about 5,000 clients a year. “It grows every year,” Day said.
Issues brought to BVBH include marital counseling, individual therapy, medicine checks and substance abuse treatment. “We work with small, medium and big problems,” Day said. “We really market ourselves to anything that walks in the door.”
Besides its on-site outpatient services, BVBH has been on the forefront of telehealth. “Telehealth has allowed us to increase our access and serve more people,” Day said.
Telehealth utilizes communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely. The merging of healthcare delivery and technology has become so prevalent, the United States Health Resources and Services Administration formed the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT), which promotes the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery and health information services.
This can be a valuable resource, particularly in rural medicine, says OAT’s website. “Telehealth is especially critical in rural and other remote areas that lack sufficient health care services, including specialty care.” Nebraska is no exception; in 2019 there were only three counties – Cass, Sarpy and Douglas – that didn’t have a county-wide shortage of mental health resources, according to the Rural Health Information Hub.
According to UNMC, for example, 43% of Nebraska’s adolescents with depression received treatment in 2016. While telehealth has likely shrunk this gap since, Day said not all telehealth is created equal. “A lot of places can do telehealth, but there are only a few that are doing it well. It’s important for us to do things right.”
Whether via telehealth or on-site outpatient services, Day said providing the best service is paramount. “You’ve got to do what you do really well, rather than try to do everything and have a mediocre service.”