by CEO Amy Behnke

Good morning and welcome to the Health Center Association of Nebraska 2021 Virtual Conference. I am Amy Behnke and I have had the honor of serving as HCAN’s CEO for the past six years. For those of you who may be new to your role, HCAN is Nebraska’s Primary Care Association and we conduct training, individualized technical assistance, and advocacy work for the seven health centers in our state. We are here to support you!

This year marks HCAN’s 10th Anniversary. Ten years ago, the health center patient population in Nebraska totaled just over 63,000. In 2020, that number was over 107,000. Since 2011, the health center footprint has grown to 7 health centers and over 70 service locations. Outreach and enrollment staff have educated nearly 500,000 Nebraskans on Marketplace and Medicaid coverage. You’ve expanded dental and behavioral health services, adopted telehealth, and brought health care directly to patients via mobile units. You employ over 1,000 Nebraskans and save the overall health care system $180 million a year. Nebraska health centers comprise one of the largest systems of primary health care in our state and deliver the highest quality health care among all health centers in the country. What you do is simply unrivaled.

As the COVID vaccine has become more readily available, you have once again answered the call; vaccinating nearly 50,000 Nebraskans, 68% of whom are of a racial or ethnic minority. You’ve taken vaccinations directly to the community and continue to be the trusted source to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.

And while COVID-19 is still with us for the foreseeable future, as you start to think about your work outside of COVID, we hope the lineup of speakers and exhibitors we have curated for you both reenergize you and spark new ideas.  Thank you for the gift of your time over the next two days and please don’t hesitate to let any member of the HCAN team know how we can continue to be of support.

Ten years ago we could have hardly imagined what would be endured by our patients, their families, and the health center family over the last 18 months. COVID-19 served as a stark reminder that there is a chasm when it comes to equitable access to health care in this country. The very foundation of this health center movement is rooted in civil rights and justice. And as we celebrate Pride month, recognize the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, and are just days away from Juneteenth, we know there is work yet to do.

As we move through 2021, Nebraska health centers will continue to serve their patients with compassion and a commitment to equitable access to health care for all.



Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is a public health crisis which is only growing.

The Alzheimer’s Association annual Fact and Figures report was recently released and more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and by 2050, that number may grow to more than 12 million.

In Nebraska, there are currently 35,000 people living with the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease impacts more than just the person living with disease. In Nebraska, there are more than 61,000 family members and friends who provide unpaid care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Women account for almost 60% of caregivers for those afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease. This impacts their long-term health and many times, their financial health. Nearly 19 percent of women Alzheimer’s caregivers had to leave the workforce either to become a caregiver or because their caregiving duties became too burdensome.

In addition, this year a special report, Race, Ethnicity and Alzheimer’s in America was included with Fact and Figures. It examines the perspectives and experiences of Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native and White Americans in regard to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. The report also examines the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Some highlights from the report include:

  • Health and socioeconomic disparities and systemic racism contribute to increased Alzheimer’s and dementia risk in communities of color. According to the report, older Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately more likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In addition, both groups are more likely to have missed diagnoses than older Whites.
  • Two-thirds of Black Americans (66%) believe it is harder for them to get excellent care for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Likewise, 2 in 5 Native Americans (40%) and Hispanic Americans (39%) believe their own race or ethnicity makes it harder to get care, as do one-third of Asian Americans (34%).

However, there are ways we can make a difference.

The Alzheimer’s Association exists to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all those impacted on the Alzheimer’s journey; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

What can you do?

For providers, the Association has tools and training to learn more about diagnosis and care planning. The no-cost Approaching Alzheimer’s training is a great place to start.

The Alzheimer’s Association also offers a variety of support services – some available 24/7!  The first and most important service we provide is a 24 hour/7 days a week, 365 days a year helpline.  Master’s level clinicians are available to answer any questions you may have and offer support services to those affected by Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. The number is 1-800-272-3900.

In addition, we offer a variety of educational programs that are available anytime online at as well as live Zoom sessions. Topics include warning signs, responding to behaviors, how to reduce your risk for dementia and more.  We also offer support groups for caregivers as they navigate the sometimes difficult waters of caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s. Other support services are available at

Want to make sure you know the warning signs of Alzheimer’s?

Join us for The 10 Warning Signs on April 26th at 10:00 am CST for a FREE live session.

One of our most important roles is raising awareness and increasing knowledge of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The more people understand about Alzheimer’s and dementia, the more likely they will take action when there are signs and symptoms and we can work to break the stigma associated with this disease.

written by Julie Chytil


Julie Chytil | Director of Programs
Alzheimer’s Association, Nebraska Chapter

24/7 Helpline: 800.272.3900 |





Written by: Mutual of America Financial Group

A leading provider of investment and retirement services, Mutual of America Financial Group is no stranger to Nebraska. The Company opened its Omaha office a year ago, and as a result, growing closer to the local community has gone hand in hand with increasing our exposure to causes that are important to the organizations we serve—including healthcare.

The idea of actively promoting the welfare of others is close to our heart. Mutual of America Financial Group (then known as the National Health & Welfare Retirement Association) was founded on October 1, 1945, by an exceptional group of leaders who were dedicated to supporting the nonprofit sector and believed that every worker deserves a financially secure and dignified retirement. Integrity, prudence and reliability are the values that have guided us since our inception and that continue to serve us well.

In 2019, Mutual of America invested in new and innovative capabilities to accelerate our growth in the retirement savings and investments markets that promise to be even more dynamic in the years ahead. This included investments in advanced technologies, such as the implementation of Salesforce’s customer relationship management system and the introduction of our Payroll Integration service, which will enhance the customer experience while providing new ways to streamline our business processes through artificial-intelligence-driven data analytics. We also partnered with FIS—a global leader in retirement technology solutions—to integrate their leading-edge, online OMNI recordkeeping platform solution into our operations.

Our future will include a new array of products and services, such as providing 403(b) and 401(k) Thrift plans through a mutual fund trust platform, as well as investment advice and wealth management services, and guaranteed income streams for those already retired. “Since our founding, we have been dedicated to helping our customers stay focused on achieving their retirement and investment goals,” said John R. Greed, Mutual of America Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “This commitment helps us make an even more meaningful impact in the communities where we all live and work.”

We are readily available to provide plan sponsors with the tools they need to review the retirement plans they offer their employees. As always, participant education is paramount for Mutual of America. Through one-on-one attention and tailored service from our representatives, we aim to engage employees, help them better understand their benefits and make smart financial decisions. The quality of our investment offerings, outstanding personal service and history of financial strength is evident in client feedback.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out:

Justin Grimm
Regional Manager

Field Consulting Services
Aksarben Village

2111 South 67th Street

Suite 300

Omaha, NE 68106
w: 402.378.7280

For more information, visit


Submitted by

Jennifer A. Collins, PhD, F-ABFT
VP Operations/Discipline Director Forensic Toxicology—LabCorp

What Was
As most everyone knows, the U.S. is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. In 2017 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, but the roots of the problem go back much further. The issues began in the late 1990s with changes in the way that chronic pain was treated. Between 1999 and 2012 there was a substantial increase in prescription rates for opioids before it became clear that these medications could be highly addictive and dangerous. Along with this increase in prescription rates came dramatic increases in opiate overdoses. Between 1999 and 2018 almost 450,000 people died from overdoses that involved either prescription or illicit opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has characterized the epidemic into three distinct phases.

• The first phase began in the late 1990s and was dominated by prescription opioids that were natural or semi-synthetic such as methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.
• The second phase began around 2010 and was marked by an increase in overdoses involving heroin.
• The third phase began in 2013 where the country saw the impacts from synthetic opioids, especially illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

What Is
Even though the prescription rates are dropping, our communities across the nation are still flooded with opioid prescriptions. The CDC reported that over 168 million opioids were still prescribed in 2018. To complicate matters, we are currently at the crossroads of two separate health crises. The COVID-19 pandemic raises new risks and creates additional challenges for patients with substance use disorder (SUD), and data indicates that drug overdoses are spiking during this new pandemic. In response, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have increased flexibility for providing buprenorphine and methadone to patients with opioid use disorder. The CDC has developed a resource page for patients and healthcare providers who are navigating treatment of SUD during the current COVID-19 environment.

Even before the current COVID-19 pandemic, multiple organizations recognized the need to balance the risk and benefits of opioid therapy especially in patients suffering from chronic, painful conditions. In response, Opioid Prescribing Guidelines issued by the CDC and the American Academy of Pain Medicine recommend that healthcare providers perform a benefit-to harm assessment for the individual patient. Several screening tools have been developed to assess patient risk with chronic opioid therapy (COT). For consumers, public service awareness campaigns strive to educate Americans about the risks of opioids and encourage patients to talk to their doctors about opioid alternatives.

What Can Be
Since declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, HHS launched a 5-point strategy to combat the health crisis. At the top of the list is the need to expand access to treatment and recovery services such as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). In 2016, at least 2.1 million people were living with an opioid dependency, while only 374,000 individuals sought treatment. There is a significant need to empower more physicians with the ability to provide MAT in order to improve outcomes for opioid-dependent patients. Research has shown that SUD is a chronic condition. Now, more than ever before, programs and policies are being implemented so that SUD can be treated like other chronic conditions.

Medical schools in the United States are beginning to integrate courses covering pain-related incidents and SUD. Major insurance plans are taking leadership roles in promoting and covering holistic and collaborative care of patients with SUD. Technology companies are developing software to connect each part of the care team ecosystem.

Like most large problems, there is no single solution to conquering the opioid crisis. Collaboration among physicians, counselors, laboratories, pharmacies, policy makers, insurance companies, and many others will be required to overcome this crisis. Cultural changes in the way society treats people with substance use disorders will also be necessary. This is perhaps the best news of all—that we can each play a part in reducing the impact of the opioid crisis in our country.

In an effort to address the opioid crisis, LabCorp has developed several test options to help manage Suboxone® MAT for SUD. Click here to learn more. LabCorp also offers a comprehensive test menu to help meet the drug testing and clinical testing needs of different patient populations.

written by: Omaha Integrative Care

These are unprecedented times. Never before have we experienced such a far-reaching event as that of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has changed so many aspects of our lives: Who we see. What we do. Where we work. Where we go. How we interact. Our entire reality has shifted, and it is no wonder that we are all reeling, staggering to catch our footing, wondering why we feel so strange, so rattled. If you, too, are wondering why you’re feeling so “off,” know that there are several processes at play in this, our collective experience.


Stress is a normal and inevitable part of being alive. And like all living things, we humans have developed a natural response to stress that is meant to keep us safe and help us survive. You might know it as “Fight, flight, or freeze.” Over the course of human history, the stressors we face have shifted from evading predators and surviving the elements to juggling packed schedules and tackling unending obligations at work and at home. But while our stressors have changed, our stress response has stayed more or less the same: Fight, flight, or freeze. When the stress response is activated, the body prepares to take action by pumping adrenaline and thereby increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. It also diverts energy away from digestion — deemed nonessential in a moment of survival. What this means for us now is that we may be feeling restless, on edge, unable to focus, and may be experiencing digestive problems.

The stress of COVID-19 is also different from our day-to-day stressors in that it is chronic rather than acute. While our everyday stressors are distinct, like specific notes or instruments in a song, the stress of COVID-19 is more like a low and ever-present hum. This puts us in a perpetual state of stress, which can have long lasting negative effects on our minds and bodies.


Whenever we experience a significant change or loss, we experience grief. Consider all the things that have changed or been lost in the wake of COVID-19. Daily interactions with coworkers, friends, even strangers. Celebrations like birthdays, graduations, weddings, baby showers. Handshakes, hugs, and even smiles, which might now be obscured behind masks. We no longer have access to these things in the same way we did before, and we are grieving the loss. Grief takes many forms and might show up as anger, denial, bargaining, or depression, until eventually shifting into acceptance and meaning. Acknowledging this grief can be a first step toward processing it and making peace with all that has changed or been put on hold.


The global experience of COVID-19 is one of collective trauma. The circumstances that we are experiencing — as individuals and as members of the global community — are overwhelming, distressing, and threatening. We are in the midst of a crisis, and our minds and bodies are responding accordingly. Trauma impacts our ability to function in many ways: Cognitively, it can impair our memory, learning, concentration, and decision-making abilities. Emotionally, it can reduce our impulse control and regulation. Physically, it can increase our risk for many ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, and substance abuse. Relationally, it can alter our concepts of ourselves and of others, perhaps viewing ourselves as weak or responsible, or viewing others as dangerous or not to be trusted.


While COVID-19 has increased our stress, elicited grief, and exposed us to collective trauma, it has also impacted our access to resources that normally help us cope: exercising at the gym, attending spiritual or religious services, going out to bars and restaurants, attending concerts or events. (Add these losses to the list of things we are grieving.) Many of us may have noticed that because of this, we are turning to other forms of coping. As humans, we have a limited amount of energy — physical, mental, emotional. When our energy is depleted, we turn to the coping strategies that require the least amount of energy, like snacking, pouring a drink, or retreating into a cozy cocoon of procrastination or avoidance. While these strategies make sense and provide some comfort or relief in the short term, they often are not very effective in the long term. Intentionally cultivating productive coping and regulation strategies can help replenish our stores of physical, emotional, and mental energy. Here are just a few options:

  1. Relaxation: The counterpart to stress is relaxation. We can achieve this through specific relaxation techniques, such as meditation or progressive muscle relaxation, or through enjoyable activities that boost feelings of relaxation, such as reading, crafting, or cooking.
  2. Physical movement: Physical movement helps us release some of our built-up stress energy (the “flight” in “fight, flight, or freeze”). This movement can be as simple as going for a walk or doing gentle stretching.
  3. Seeking support: Our relationships and connections with others have been shown to increase our ability to handle stress. Seeking support can look like reaching out to friends or loved ones (whether in person or virtually). It can also look like talking to a therapist, receiving medical care, or finding a connection to a community, such as a faith group, hobby club, or other organization.


If you are looking for further support, Omaha Integrative Care can provide treatment and care to support your wellness in mind and body. We recognize that our patients are more than just their symptoms, and we strive to approach each person as a unique and complex individual, shaped by the many facets of their lives, relationships, resources, and identities.

We provide primary medical care, integrative mental health therapy, psychiatric medication management, yoga and meditation classes, and body-focused healing modalities, including massage, acupuncture, reiki, and sound bath healing. Our integrative team of providers collaborates to provide patients with the most comprehensive care possible. For more information, visit or call 402-934-1617.

Today, September 25th, we celebrate National Voter Registration Day. National Voter Registration Day is a day of action before state deadlines begin in October. Last year, millions of Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register.

This upcoming Midterm elections are especially important for Nebraska. On November 6th, Nebraskans will be asked to vote on Initiative 427, which can expand Medicaid to an estimated 90,000 low-income Nebraskans and provide health coverage to those that desperately need it.

Medicaid Expansion will have a profound effect on thousands of hard-working Nebraskans who are working desperately to pull themselves out of poverty.  Patients with chronic disease such as diabetes are much more likely to have their conditions under control if they have health insurance.   Moreover, they are more likely to have serious diseases diagnosed earlier so treatment can begin sooner.  Expanding Medicaid will ensure families get access to preventative care, leading to overall improved well-being and avoiding costly trips to the emergency room.  A recent study of Medicaid Expansion in Ohio, conducted by The Ohio Department of Medicaid, found that emergency room utilization decreased 17%, 37% of smokers enrolled in the expansion program were able to quit, and 97% of those with an opioid addiction received treatment.

So, this National Voter Registration Day, I encourage you to get registered to vote. If you recently moved, turned 18, changed your name, or haven’t voted in recent elections, you need to update your voter registration!  All it takes is 30 seconds to register to vote online at

And when it comes time to vote on November 6th, I encourage you to vote FOR Initiative 427. Everyone deserves the peace of mind that comes with having access to health insurance.


By: Angela Lindstrom

Integrated Marketing Director


The Envolve Vision Van stopped in Omaha and Lincoln, June 21st and 22nd, providing 108 Nebraskans with FREE vision screenings, and access to prescription and/or reading glasses. The “SeeMore” Vision Van, a collaboration between Envolve and the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU), visited six Nebraska Community Health Centers in the last nine months providing a total of:

  • 395 screenings
  • 294 prescription glasses
  • 92 reading glasses


This June, local Optometrists volunteered their time and expertise to screen patients at three Nebraska Community Health Centers. Health center staff organized on-site volunteers, translation services, and any additional support needed to ensure each event ran smoothly. The opportunity to assess patients’ sharpness of vision, need for corrective lenses, and screen for degenerative eye diseases (diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma) showcased the enormous need for vision services within our communities.


HCAN is thankful for the Envolve Vision Van and their support of Nebraska Community Health Centers!


written by Jenna Thomsen, Director of Training and Technical Assistance

May is here, which means warmer weather is on its way, and school is almost out of session for summer break!  But it also marks the annual kickoff of a very important season of giving  – Nebraska’s Community Giving Days.  During specific days in the month, communities all around the state rally around hundreds of nonprofits to help raise money and awareness for their organizations.  The Giving Days is a 24-hour event where excitement and energy is generated around giving to local organizations.

However, choosing a nonprofit to give to can be intimidating.  Which one do you choose?  This year, we at HCAN would like for you to consider giving to any one of our Nebraska community health centers. In Nebraska, the community health centers served over 94,000 patients last year.  Nebraska’s community health centers ensure that all individuals have access to high-quality medical, dental, and behavioral health care, regardless of ability to pay.   Health centers are the safety net providers in the state, ensuring comprehensive, community-based, culturally appropriate healthcare in a compassionate and respectful environment.

Ninety percent of our patients are low income, and one out of every four uninsured individuals in our state receives care at a health center.  In fact, Nebraska has the second highest rate of uninsured patients across all health centers in the nation, with nearly 50% of our patients lacking health insurance.

When thinking of where you will be donating to this year, please consider giving a donation to any one of the community health centers in Nebraska.  Even the smallest gift can make a big difference to the patients we serve.  Your gift will directly help those vulnerable populations who would otherwise not have access to primary and preventative care.  For many patients, health centers may be the only source of health care services available in their community. You have a chance with your donation to make a powerful, yet critical difference in many lives.

During the month of May and the Giving Days to come, please take a moment to find your community’s Giving Day at and choose one of Nebraska’ community health centers. Your donation is appreciated!

-Angela Lindstrom

Integrated Marketing Director

Health Center Association of Nebraska

The Certified Application Counselors (CACs) and other assisters throughout the state of Nebraska rocked Open Enrollment 5! The concert was executed smoothly with a nice balance of lights to complement the music.

How many consumers enrolled?

This year, 88,213 Nebraskans signed up for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Why is this a big deal?  Take a look at the enrollment numbers for previous years and you can see why assisters are rejoicing.


For 2018 coverage:   88,213   5th open enrollment   November 1, 2017 – December 15, 2017

For 2017 coverage:   84,371   4th open enrollment    November 1, 2016 – January 31, 2017

For 2016 coverage:   87,835   3rd open enrollment    November 1, 2015 – January 31, 2016

For 2015 coverage:   74,152   2nd open enrollment   November 15. 2014 – February 15, 2015

For 2014 coverage:   63,776   1st open enrollment    October 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014

Note: CMS started to report state-level plan selection figures after January 9, 2015.


All hands were on deck to help spread the word about open enrollment. I probably annoyed many people by using my personal social media platforms to educate those I know. What was enlightening to me were the stories shared by individuals who were able to find affordable health insurance.

On, there was a tool that allowed consumers to explore the plans offered in their state. While many of the prices listed were high, many consumers were surprised by how affordable a plan was for them once they completed an application and were able to see what tax credits and/or cost sharing reductions they received.

In fact, many consumers were able to receive free health insurance. That’s right – many qualified for free plans based upon their income.

So, as I stated before, the assisters in Nebraska rocked hard. Fans at the concert enjoyed the performance, especially the epic encore.

To everyone that helped ensure a successful concert…..Great work! We did it.





-Keshia Bradford, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Health Center Association of Nebraska




Get Ready for a Performance of a Lifetime!

The crowd is ready…

The performers take the stage…

The curtain goes up…

The performers play and the crowd goes wild!!!







That’s how I think about the outreach and enrollment staff at the health centers. They practice (train) for the Open Enrollment and once it begins, all that practice (training) begins to take hold.

How is Open Enrollment going?

Rockin’! Open enrollment is going very well. Signing up has been going well for many consumers and Certified Application Counselors (CACs) at the health centers. Despite the lack of advertising funding used to promote and reduced number of trained assisters, more consumers are signing up for health insurance plans than expected. Each week, we are seeing enrollment numbers climbing higher. In fact, enrollment numbers this year are higher than in years past based upon the same number of days into Open Enrollment. In Nebraska we have enrolled 32,759 from November 1st to November 25th.

Counselors from the health centers have reported that many consumers have been shocked by how affordable their health insurance has been. For many, qualifying for the tax credits has helped tremendously lower their monthly payments.

There have even been a few consumers remark how nervous they were about how much their insurance was going to be until they were able to see for themselves how affordable their plan was.

Health center CACs are seeing their schedules bustling with appointments and walk-ins. We still have a couple weeks before Open Enrollment ends (December 15th). We are anxiously awaiting the final enrollment numbers.

In other words, the performers are in the middle of their set. The crowd is enthusiastically reacting to the music.

Will there be an encore after the final set? Stay tuned.


-Keshia Bradford, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Health Center Association of Nebraska