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Prioritizing School Mental Health

Recently we announced that in partnership with ESU3, we would be taking over the reins of the Nebraska School Mental Health Conference from BHECN. We are very excited to take on this initiative and feel it strongly aligns with our mission and the importance we place on early intervention and prevention. Several ESU staff and two of us from the foundation spent last week in Washington, DC attending the National School Mental Health Conference to help guide our efforts at the state level.

It was an incredible few days surrounded by some of the most innovative minds working in school mental health. We heard about effective programs from all over the country, and also were able to reaffirm that we are on the right track in our development and have many of the right people at the table already in Nebraska! We also had the opportunity to hear from one of our very own from Omaha, Barbara Jessing, as she spoke about the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma In Schools (CBITS) and Bounceback programs they are implementing through Connections at Project Harmony. Way to represent the great state of Nebraska, Barb!

One of my personal favorite moments came on Wednesday morning when I had the opportunity to listen to Mark Rosenbaum, who serves as the director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law, which aims to eliminate economic injustice. He has served as principal counsel in landmark cases in the areas of K-12 public and higher education, voting rights, poverty law, and homelessness. Sitting there listening to him took me back to my days at Creighton University School of Law where my idealism remained unwavering and my sense of hope for helping others rang strong. I always wanted to focus on education and civil rights law, so hearing him touched on many things that were important to me. I was inspired as I listened to him describe education as a basic right for all youth, including those with a mental illness or behavioral health concern. Anyone impacted deserves to have accommodations made so that they can best learn and work through the natural progression of education. In many discussions I’ve had about potential legislation in our state, we’ve talked about the need to make these accommodations for students, just as we did when we passed the concussion protocols as a state, and just as we do in many other instances for those with a disability. It is imperative that we do the same for those with a mental illness.

As I landed back here in Nebraska, I felt inspired to move the School Mental Health Conference forward, as we work to shape a system throughout our state that is efficient, fair, and innovative. I look forward to working with many of you as we do this, and we will have more information about upcoming efforts shortly! If you would like more information on the National School Mental Health Conference, please visit:

Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation
Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board and the Project Propel Planning Group.