Thank you for your interest in expanding the mental health workforce. The following describes the need, the possible solutions and our project to help with the workforce shortage by up training providers in managing patients with mental health problems. Max Lydiatt, John Mitchell and Bill Lydiatt are physicians with an interest in expanding the capacity of primary care, specialty care physicians, APPs, nurses, social workers and others to increase their confidence and abilities in managing mild to moderate mental illness. This effort, called Bridges to Mental Health Workforce Expansion Project, required the help and guidance of many people. We are greatly indebted to so many for helping us develop this model. We hope you will join our effort. This site has many links to aid in diagnosis, treatment, finding critical resources and how you may sign up to attend future training events.

Community Need

The Covid pandemic accelerated the already crescendoing prevalence of mental health issues. Across the United States, as in Nebraska and Iowa, rates of depression and anxiety have become a significant stressor for citizens, health care providers, and health systems. In the United States, 21% of adults experienced mental health issues in 2020 (52.9 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults. 5.6% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2020 (14.2 million people). The increase has many reasons, but the net result is a substantial shortage of appropriately trained healthcare providers. Omaha has seen wait times extend to 8-12 weeks to be seen by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Waitlists, extending past 300 people at Nebraska Medicine, create risk for citizens. COVID has further strained the workforce as many have left health care or reduced their hours due to their own health and fatigue.

The data above show a substantial difference in prevalence of depression across the United States. This may be due to relative differences in risk factors but, perhaps more likely, is due to a lack of diagnosis.

The same trend is seen in Nebraska. The relative prevalence of depression also tends to align with the number of providers available in a region. Lower prevalence of depression is seen in counties with few or no providers. Access is to diagnosis is a major hurdle.

There is a critical workforce shortage for mental health providers. Primary care and non-psychiatric specialists provide 80% of medical therapy for psychiatric issues. The workforce is inadequate to address the increasing burden of mental health issues. Psychiatrists are best suited to deal with those with severe mental illness, but that leaves up to 39 million Americans with mild to moderate mental illness (MMMI) on long wait lists while their symptoms worsen. While waiting to be seen, many people’s conditions worsen. People present to the emergency department in acute crises because they cannot be seen promptly through outpatient services. Emergency departments are an expensive and acute environment, not suited to treating someone with mild to moderate mental illness. Untreated mental illness increases hospital admission rates, making recovery much more complex and expensive. A growing sense of hopelessness, when untreated, increases the risk of suicide.

Through discussions with mental health leaders in the state, a review of needs assessment reports, and personal experience, we recognize workforce shortage is a significant impediment to improving mental health care in Nebraska. There are several ways to enhance the workforce in mental health. We need more individuals to go into the mental health field. This will require exposure at an early age while the individual’s career formation is still in its infancy. Improving lifestyle and benefits for existing mental health providers is also necessary to make students see this as a viable and rewarding career option. A third method is to expand the capacity of existing resources. This is the goal of Bridges to Mental Health. The Bridge to Mental Health Workforce Expansion Project is addressing this need by providing additional training and expertise for primary care and non-psychiatric specialists, to expand the reach of psychiatrists through consultation with them.

Project Description 

Bridge to Mental Health Workforce Expansion Project is an initiative supported by philanthropy to increase the behavioral health workforce in Nebraska. This novel project will train primary care, specialist physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, and mental health workers. Physicians nearing the end of their practice or retired physicians wanting to stay involved and give back to the community are a second cohort we strive to reach.

The goal of this training will be to increase their diagnostic and therapeutic skills, confidence to expand their care and heighten their awareness of common psychiatric disorders. The mental health training will help mitigate the access crisis by initiating early mental health treatment in areas where patients and the public already come for care. Retired physicians and APPs may be willing to help staff mental health clinics in existing or new spaces.  

Specialists are treating patients with other health-related ailments who face various mental health issues, which origins or exacerbations are likely psychological or psychiatric in nature. These specialists, primary care physicians, advanced practice providers, and nurses are already seeing these patients but may be able to capitalize on the willingness of the patient to investigate all aspects of disease origin. Treating these patients with mild anxiety and depression that presents with these somatic complaints not only would improve patient care in these practices but would limit the number of patients that go on to have more severe mental illness. In fact, there is evidence that patients that have somatic complaints tend to have more severe mental illness later in life. The goal is to achieve advanced training through a seminar with ongoing support and backup to this group of committed individuals. 

For the individual participants, this study will allow them to reflect on their current and future ability to care for patients with psychiatric illnesses and further solidify their knowledge of treating psychiatric conditions. The benefits are establishing a model for increasing the mental health workforce in Nebraska, thereby improving access and quality of care for patients while potentially reducing expensive acute care.

Bridges to Mental Health Day 1 (Morning)   

Bridges to Mental Health Day 1 (Afternoon)  

Bridges to Mental Health Day 2 (Morning)  

Bridges to Mental Health Day 2 (Afternoon)  

Partners & Collaborations

Our goal is to develop public, philanthropic, academic, and payor partnerships in our community. We have been fortunate to develop key initial partnerships. Clarkson Institute provides the administrative home for the project. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Licensing Board of Medicine and Surgery offered their strong support of the project in its infancy. The Rhonda and Howard Hawks Foundation granted the bulk of the funding to support the first cohort of providers in August of 2023. Our speakers came from Massachusetts General Hospital department of Psychiatry and the University of Vermont. A grant from Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) allowed a second cohort to be educated in January of 2024. Both sessions were graciously hosted by Clarkson College. So far, we’ve had 2 cohorts totaling 60 participants and have had very positive feedback. Additionally, we conducted pre-and post-tests which demonstrated a significant improvement in all areas that we studied and are currently submitting our results for publication. The results were encouraging. Ratings of competence and confidence increased. We learned valuable lessons about content expectations to hone future sessions. We look forward to working with other organizations as we add additional sessions across Nebraska.

Click here for the Educational Resources and Guides


  • Waco Guide to Psychopharmacology in Primary Care
  • Project PEACE (Psychiatric E-modules Advancing Clinician Education)
  • Kootenai Health Psychopharmacology Study Group-Behavioral Health Treatment Guidelines
  • Common Rating Scales
  • Omaha Community Resources, for a list of phone numbers and ideas for referrals go to.