The Executive Board advanced measures this session that established legislative committees to investigate a child welfare contract and provide oversight to the state’s youth rehabilitation and treatment centers, as well as a task force to study implementation of a mental health crisis line.
Nebraska implemented a statewide privatization of its child welfare system in 2009. By 2012, the experiment had failed and all service areas except the eastern — serving Douglas and Sarpy counties — had returned to casework provision by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2019, the department awarded a five-year provider contract for the eastern service area to Saint Francis Ministries for $197 million — a considerably lower bid than was made by the entity that was providing services at the time.
LR29, introduced by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, creates the Eastern Service Area Child Welfare Contract Special Investigative and Oversight Committee to study the procurement process undertaken by DHHS and Administrative Services to award, implement and oversee that contract.
Committee membership includes two members each from the Appropriations, Government, Military and Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services and Judiciary committees as well as one at-large member of the Legislature who is a resident of the eastern service area.
The committee has subpoena power, subject to authorization by the Executive Board, and will report findings and recommendations to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2021. The committee will terminate Dec. 31, 2022.
Senators also voted to reauthorize an oversight committee for the state’s troubled youth rehabilitation and treatment centers.
In 2020, lawmakers created the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center Special Oversight Committee of the Legislature in response to a crisis at YRTC Geneva the year before. The nine-member committee issued a report of its findings and recommendations to the Legislature and terminated Dec. 31, 2020.
LR25, sponsored by the Health and Human Services Committee, reauthorizes the oversight committee with a termination date of Dec. 31, 2021. The oversight committee may hold hearings, request and receive reports from DHHS and issue subpoenas. It will issue a report to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2021.
LB247, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, establishes the Mental Health Crisis Hotline Task Force to create an implementation plan for the 988 crisis hotline established by the federal government in 2020.
Voting members include the chairpersons of the Health and Human Services, Judiciary and Transportation and Telecommunications committees and two at-large members of the Legislature appointed by the Executive Board.
Representatives from DHHS and the Public Service Commission — along with advocacy, education, law enforcement and behavioral and mental health provider representatives — are nonvoting members.
The task force will issue a report to the Legislature by Dec. 17, 2021, regarding implementation plans and recommendations and will terminate Dec. 31, 2022.
LB247 passed on a 46-0 vote and took effect immediately.