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The Department of Health and Human Services was selected to get a $12 million grant -- $3 million each year for four years -- to help families with children who have a serious emotional disturbance.

The money, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will help integrate mental health services and supports for children and youth. It will improve access to a full array of community-based services.

“Over the years, parents have navigated multiple, complex systems to obtain help for their children, but our new children’s system of care is changing the way Nebraska families access behavioral health services,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Once it is fully implemented, the system will help simplify processes for families, increase quality of care and become even more effective and efficient, Ricketts said.

The funds will be critical to early service development and system improvements, said Courtney Phillips, HHS chief executive officer.

Work will begin on the system of care, using the grant, beginning Sept. 30.

“This will allow us to meet youth and family needs more efficiently,” said Sheri Dawson, HHS director of the Division of Behavioral Health.

Over 37,000 children in Nebraska experience behavioral health disorders, according to the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health. National reports show half of all lifetime mental illness begins at the average age of 14, and three quarters by age 24.

Between 2 to 5 percent of children suffer from a serious mental health disorder that causes substantial impairment in functioning at home, at school, or in the community.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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