Earlier this year, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation welcomed Nathan Busch to the team to serve as point person for implementing the state’s newly created System of Care. We recently had a conversation with Nathan to learn a little more about him and what the Nebraska System of Care (NeSOC) is designed to accomplish.
Nebraska Children: What is your role at Nebraska Children?
Nathan Busch: My primary role is to represent the private sector in the management of the implementation of the NeSOC. Additionally, I’m working closely with Betty Medinger to develop relationships with the four federally recognized tribes in Nebraska: the Santee Sioux Nation, the Winnebago Ho-Chunk Tribe, the Omaha Tribe, and the Ponca Tribe. I support the work and data analysis of the Professional Partners Program with the Division of Children and Family Services and the behavioral health regions. Lastly, I work with Cassy Blakely to manage suicide prevention work throughout the state.
NC: Wow, that’s a lot! Where were you prior to Nebraska Children, and what led you here?
NB: I have been connected to the work of child protection and safety for the last 13 years. My family and I are originally from the Salt Lake City area. In 2000, we moved to Nebraska and never left. I graduated from Creighton University School of Law, obtained my law license, and entered practice in Scottsbluff. Originally, I practiced family law, insurance defense law, school law, criminal defense, and personal injury law. This practice gave me the experience of arguing a case in federal court. However, I found a love for guardian-ad-litem work and that quickly became my focus. I became an attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services, which led to an opportunity to serve as the Service Area Administrator for the Western Service Area for DHHS. While working in this position, I participated in the Safe Haven and privatization experiences. In 2012, my family and I moved to Lincoln, where I served as the DCFS Policy Chief, Legislative Liaison, and Special Projects Administrator. We love Lincoln, and life just keeps getting better with a move to Nebraska Children. I am a very lucky person to get to work with my passion: helping kids.
NC: And we’re lucky to have you! Now here’s a big question: Can you explain the System of Care for those of us who aren’t sure what it entails?
NB: As a trained (and recovering) attorney, I like to tell stories. So, here is one that can help explain NeSOC.
In 1904, the city of Baltimore caught on fire. At that time, most of the city was constructed out of wood. The fire quickly spread. Fire companies were rushing in from as far away as Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York City, Virginia, and Atlantic City. In many cases, firemen traveled with their horse-drawn pumpers overnight to get there in time. They did that because they were dedicated to helping save the families of Baltimore. However, when they arrived, they quickly found their hose couplings did not fit the Baltimore fire hydrants. As a result, these frustrated firemen were forced to watch 1,500 buildings in Baltimore burn down, impacting 35,000 families. This fire led to standardized couplings across the United States. Now a firefighter can use a truck from San Diego to help fight a fire in Denver.
This is similar to the Nebraska System of Care. Right now, children and families receive behavioral health services from multiple sources (probation, education, behavioral health regions), funded through multiple sources and with targeted multiple outcomes. The environment currently consists of many different “hoses” that do not connect for children and families. Like the firefighters, professionals want to help, but sometimes regulations, policies, funding restrictions, etc., prevent service “hoses” from connecting. The implementation of NeSOC will examine the funding sources, regulations, policies, and service gaps to make sure children and families can more easily access a more diverse range of services without having to connect to every individual funder.
Additionally, over time, communities diversified the materials used in constructing buildings and developed strategies to prevent fires from starting or spreading. They improved upon methods for quick and effective response to address the threat of fire and avoid the trauma and expense of completely rebuilding a community. Likewise, families should be able to access behavioral health services and supports without waiting for the situation to become a crisis. There must be quick and effective responses to avoid the trauma and expense of children being placed outside of their family home or losing custody of the child in order to obtain needed services. By looking more closely at systems serving children and families, this initiative hopes to avoid the trauma and challenges of reuniting families when separation might have been prevented in the first place.
A System of Care connects and coordinates the work of state child-serving agencies, nonprofits and local governments, behavioral health care providers, families, and patient advocates. It helps children, youth, and families function better at home, in school, in the community, and throughout life.
NC: What do you hope the NeSOC will accomplish?
NB: With the implementation of NeSOC, we hope to increase school attendance and performance, decrease the average age of first system contact, decrease the cost per youth receiving services, and increase the percentage of youth and young adults living in home settings. At the end of the day, we’re all about keeping families happy, healthy, and together.