DHHS Highlights Newsletter: Volume 2, Issue 10

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Thursday, January 7, 2016| Vol. 2, No. 10

DHHS' Highlights is published by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for those interested in the latest information on health and human services issues. Please subscribe to or share the newsletter by clicking on the "Share" button.

DHHS 2015 in Review-Highlights from 2015

Access Ne Logo

ACCESSNebraska Improves

ACCESSNebraska, which provides public benefits to needy Nebraskans, has seen marked improvements this calendar year:

  • Call wait times were reduced from an average of more than 21 minutes in January to the five-minute range in September through November, with October seeing under 3 minutes.
  • DHHS’ national rank in processing applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, improved to 32nd in the nation, was 48th at the end of 2014 and 52nd in 2013.  Also, in November 2014, the average time to process applications was 40.9 days and a year later the average is 11.5 days.
  • In a U.S.D.A. report covering January-June, 89.08 percent of applications received timely processing, while the national average was 90.10 percent. The report includes a margin of error of plus or minus 4.63 percent for Nebraska, making the high end of the state’s scale over 93 percent. Ongoing monitoring of performance indicates the ranking will continue to rise.

The improvement in services was attributed to:

•The hard work of staff and their focus on clients.
•Changes made as a result of daily Economic Development staff and weekly cross-divisional meetings facilitated by the Governor’s office;
•Assistance from a consultant provided by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS); and
•A positive working relationship with the regional FNS office.

Monthly updates on the performance of ACCESSNebraska are available on the DHHS website.

Lincoln Regional Center Named Top Performer

The Lincoln Regional Center was named a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by the Joint Commission in December. It is the third year in a row that the LRC has earned the award.

“This acknowledgement by The Joint Commission recognizes the experience, teamwork and commitment of the entire staff at the Lincoln Regional Center,” DHHS CEO Courtney Phillips said. “It is a tribute to their dedication to their patients, as well as their ongoing efforts to continually improve their patients’ experiences and outcomes.”

The Lincoln Regional Center was the only hospital in Lincoln and the only psychiatric hospital recognized in Nebraska. Just eight of the 25 hospitals in Nebraska that submitted data were recognized as part of The Joint Commission’s 2015 annual report for attaining and sustaining excellence in accountability measure performance. Nationally, 1,043 of the more than 3,300 eligible hospitals achieved Top Performer distinction.

The Lincoln Regional Center is one of three regional centers in DHHS with others in Norfolk and Hastings.


Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers Accredited

The Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Geneva (YRTC-G) received its most successful audit ever from the American Correctional Association (ACA) and was once again granted a three-year accreditation. 

The Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney was accredited and received high compliance ratings following an audit by the American Correctional Association in 2014. ACA found the facility 100 percent compliant on all measurements.

Children kids

New Approach to Child Welfare is Well-Received

 Alternative Response, an additional approach in child welfare within the Division of Children and Family Services (CFS) is being positively received by families and child advocates.  In Alternative Response, child welfare workers collaborate with families to find ways for children to safely remain in their homes.

Alternative Response is being piloted in Sarpy, Lancaster, Dodge, Hall and Scotts Bluff counties.

Child Welfare Services Exceed All Federal Measures

In 2015, CFS exceeded the scores on six federal measures of the safety and permanency of state wards for the first time. Three years ago CFS surpassed the federal measures in only two measures.

The federal measures were designed to evaluate how well states address safety and permanency for state wards. The accomplishment is due to the hard work of employees as well as statewide efforts of local communities, service providers, and foster and adoptive families.


Federal Court Oversight of BSDC Ends

In August, the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska ended federal court oversight of the Beatrice State Developmental Center (BSDC). This announcement marked continued progress for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services under new leadership.
“We’re pleased the U.S. Department of Justice recognizes the state’s commitment to improving services for people with developmental disabilities in Nebraska and the progress that has been made,” said Courtney Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of DHHS. “We’ll continue to work hard to ensure individuals are being served in supportive and safe environments.”

Court documents jointly filed by DHHS and the U.S. Department of Justice said, “This memorandum outlines a success story."

Heritage Health

Medicaid Managed Care RFP Includes Physical & Behavioral Health, Pharmacy Services

In October, DHHS’ Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care (MLTC) released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the state’s new integrated Medicaid managed care program called Heritage Health. MLTC expects to award three contracts in March 2016 with the program to begin operation January 1, 2017. 

Heritage Health is a new health care delivery system that combines Nebraska’s current physical health, behavioral health, and pharmacy programs into a single comprehensive and coordinated system for Nebraska’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees.

It has been designed to simplify the delivery model for recipients by providing them with the opportunity to choose a health plan that will be responsible for an integrated package of health services and benefits.

Under Heritage Health, Medicaid and CHIP enrollees will choose one health plan that will be responsible for a full array of services and will coordinate all care for physical, behavioral, and pharmacy services.

New Equipment Saving Lives Thanks to $6 Million Grant

In May, Nebraska received a roughly $6 Million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to purchase lifesaving equipment for ambulances and hospitals.

Thanks to the grant, about 360 ambulance services and 80 hospitals in Nebraska will receive the Physio-Control LUCAS® 2, an external, mechanical device that provides automated chest compressions to adults in cardiac arrest. Already, lives have been saved by the device.

As part of this three-year grant, DHHS’ Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program will help coordinate the purchase and distribution of the devices as well as provide the appropriate training.

veterans home banner

Veterans’ Homes Certified

2015 has been a big year for DHHS’ Division of Veterans’ Homes following their annual Health Care System Surveys from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Grand Island Veterans’ Home is deficiency free for the third year in a row. For the sixth year in a row, the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home (ENVH) in Bellevue received full certification. And for the fourth time in as many years, the Norfolk Veterans’ Home was found deficiency-free. The Scottsbluff Veterans Home also was certified with only one deficiency, low by national standards.

The survey ensures that as a licensed skilled nursing facility all requirements are being met in caring for its members.

Construction Bids Solicited for Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home

Construction bid solicitation for the new Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home in Kearney was issued in November and the announcement of the selected vendor is expected in January. Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for April.

The new Veterans’ Home will be built with federal funding. Nebraska will receive partial funding this year with additional funds allotted in future years.