Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

News and Events

Boys Town expanding central Nebraska services

This article was originally written by Jeff Bahr and published in The Grand Island Independent on January 31, 2021

Because of the pandemic, mental health services are needed now more than ever. And Boys Town says it is ready to help families in central and western Nebraska with high-level assistance.

The longtime Grand Island Boys Town location, along Highway 281, is the home of youth care programs and a behavioral health clinic.

Boys Town does a lot to prevent youths from being placed outside of their homes, said Carley Starling, clinical director of the behavioral health clinic.

The youth care program consists of foster family services and in-home family services.

“We have a lot going on," said Megan Andrews, senior director of program operations for Boys Town in central Nebraska.

Starling said Boys Town is trying to “work with the family as a whole to keep the family whole" and intact.

The agency works with “families who are really, really struggling. And what we want to do is help alleviate some of that struggle," she said.

It doesn't matter if the problem seems “really big or really small. We want to be able to improve whatever's going on in their world, so that they're not struggling as a family anymore."​

Services centralized, expanding

In 2020, Boys Town closed its intervention and assessment program, commonly known as the shelter, in Grand Island.

Because of that closure, some people got the mistaken notion that Boys Town no longer operates in Grand Island.

But the behavioral health clinic has joined forces with the youth programs that already were being offered at the building.

The clinic, which used to be located on North Webb Road, moved to the West Wildwood Drive location in December.

It is greatly expanding its services, Starling said.

Boys Town works with families from a wide area, “from the South Dakota border all the way to the Kansas border and out past North Platte," she said. Telehealth has helped reach those families because it wasn't always feasible for them to drive.

Under the central Nebraska umbrella, Boys Town has offices in Kearney and North Platte and a day school in Duncan, which is near Columbus. The North Platte office offers in-home family services.

The Grand Island and Kearney offices both have in-home programs and foster family services. Those offices recruit, train and support foster families.

Doing outpatient therapy and assessments, the behavioral health clinic works with young people who have autism, intellectual disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavioral disorders. Some may be on probation.

Boys Town providers share their knowledge with parents, teaching them “how to help their kids be as successful as they can be," Starling said

“We see kids and families, and whatever struggle the family comes in with and whatever they need help with, we help figure that out with them so they can go home and be a successful family," she said.

Although most of the young people are older, Starling is working with the parent of an 18-month-old who was referred by a pediatrician for extreme behavior.

Right now, because of COVID-19, Boys Town uses telehealth to work with families. But the building will reopen its doors Feb. 15.

“So we're really, really looking forward to that," said Starling, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Foster homes needed

Boys Town works with foster parents in Spalding, Broken Bow and other communities.

More foster homes are needed to provide kids with a safe, stable environment on a temporary basis.

It's been hard to find a foster home during the pandemic. It's also hard to find placement for older kids and groups of siblings, Andrews said.

During the pandemic, foster parents have received their training online.

Starling would like to see the stigma around mental health reduced.

During the pandemic, “mental health has been a really big issue for many, many people," she said. “Our referrals have gone through the roof."

“Mental health has always been a big issue," Starling said. But the isolation experienced by kids and adults during the pandemic has “really compounded the mental health crisis."

Many adults have experienced job loss, leading to financial problems. Kids have struggled with isolation — not being in school and being unable to see their friends.

“Many kids and families went from managing their mental health pretty well to being in crisis," Starling said. Often, those problems led to hospitalization.

Unfortunately, sometimes people have had “to wait to see us," Starling said.​

Increasing staffing

But the waiting period will decrease dramatically in March because two new providers will come aboard. The number will increase to seven by August.

When Starling came from Colorado to join Boys Town in November 2018, she was the only provider at the clinic.

The total now will consist of four doctoral-level, licensed psychologists and three interns who are completing their doctorates.

Those interns come from around the country. So Boys Town is “bringing in an extra resource for the community," said Andrews, who has been with Boys Town for 13 years.

Boys Town also offers Common Sense Parenting classes, which are funded by the United Way and free to the public. Those classes have been offered at Grand Island schools and the YWCA. Right now, they're provided online.

A clinic also is offered at St. Paul and at Hastings. Those clinics cut down on drive time for families served by Boys Town.

Andrews said the level of care provided by Boys Town is “hard to come across in central Nebraska."

Because of the high quality of care, families don't have to leave town to see specialists, Andrews said, adding that Boys Town is a “great resource" for kids and families.

“Our heart is into serving kids and families," Starling said. “That's what we do, and we're really, really good at it. I may be partial. I may be biased. But we are really, really good at our jobs."