Chasek new director of Behavioral Health Education Center

Christine-Chasek

Focus on behavioral health, substance abuse services

By SARA GIBONEY
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney counseling professor Christine Chasek is working to increase access to behavioral health services in rural Nebraska through her new position with the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska.

BHECN (pronounced “beacon”), a University of Nebraska Medical Center program, was created by the Nebraska Legislature to address the shortage of behavioral health professionals in rural and underserved areas. The organization recruits and educates students in behavioral health and trains and retains professionals in the workforce.

Chasek now serves as director the BHECN’s new Kearney office.

“It’s been a win for UNK to be seen as a leader in this field. We have good programs that train students in psychology, social work and family studies at the undergraduate level, and we have our master’s program in counseling. We’re seen as being champions in behavioral health,” Chasek said.

Chasek will coordinate trainings, help support the education of the future behavioral health workforce, work to integrate medical care and behavioral health care in rural areas, and seek funding opportunities.

“The establishment of the BHECN Kearney at UNK is a further step to help improve access to mental health and substance abuse services in rural Nebraska. Efforts will now be coordinated between the training of students at UNK, internship experiences at Richard Young Hospital and the training of providers, community and other agencies by personnel at Region 3 Behavioral Health Services,” said Brent Khan, co-director of BHECN.

“Dr. Chasek’s experience with all three entities gives BHECN the right combination of skills and talents to advance BHECN’s mission in rural Nebraska.”

In 2014, 48 of Nebraska’s 93 counties were without behavioral health care, according to the Nebraska Behavioral Health Workforce report.

“The goal is for BHECN Kearney to be the rural hub for workforce development for behavioral health professionals and create more access to behavioral health services to people in rural areas,” Chasek said.

There is currently a shortage of behavioral health professionals including psychiatrists, physician assistants in psychiatry, advanced psychiatric nurse practitioners, licensed clinical mental health counselors, licensed social workers and licensed addiction counselors.

The shortage could be related to the stigma around mental health care in rural areas, a lack of resources in rural area, an increase in the number of behavioral health professionals retiring and a lack of newer professionals to fill available jobs.

Chasek hopes to integrate mental health care with medical health care in rural areas – educating nurses and physicians assistants about behavioral health issues and opening behavioral health care clinics in hospitals and medical clinics.

She also hopes to improve accessibility to behavioral health care through telehealth care.

Chasek earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from UNK in 1992. She earned her master’s degree in counseling from UNK in 1999.

For over 15 years, Chasek practiced mental health and drug and alcohol counseling as a Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

Before teaching at UNK, Chasek worked as a program director for a mental health care clinic and as assistant director of counseling at UNK’s Counseling Care Center.

Chasek began teaching as an adjunct professor in 2006 and became a full time assistant professor in 2012. She also earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Education and Supervision from the University of South Dakota in 2012.

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Source: Christine Chasek, 308.865.8361, chasekc1@unk.edu
Writer: Sara Giboney, 308.865.8529, giboneys2@unk.edu

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