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Empty Gesture on Mental Health Needs Falls Short

Sen. Lynne Walz says need is for action, not false promises; Calls proclamation signing a politically-motivated diversion

LINCOLN, NE – Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont, candidate for Nebraska lieutenant governor, today chastised Gov. Pete Ricketts for taking credit for the work of others to improve mental health services, saying Ricketts offers false promises and no real support. Walz criticized Ricketts after the governor signed a proclamation recently recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness Month.

“It’s clear to me that the governor saw an opportunity to divert attention from his ill-advised veto of legislation that would have significantly assisted Nebraska school children and their families who need guidance and assistance with mental and behavioral health issues,” Walz said.

“Frankly, signing a proclamation is an empty gesture that will not help a single child in need. It is a sad commentary on the governor’s priorities and willingness to use the good work of others to try to promote himself and his political fortunes,” she said.

In April, Ricketts vetoed LB 998, a bill that would have created a three-year, $3.6 million program funded with private donations, at no cost to the taxpayer, and was designed to take action to address the mental health issues that have led to recent school shootings by identifying and addressing mental and behavioral health needs of school children across the state.

Walz, a former teacher, who sponsored LB 998, commended the individuals, organizations and agencies that are currently working together to address the need for increased coordination, outreach and resources for mental and behavioral health services.

“It was not a veto related to the budget. In fact, the legislation called for private donations to cover the $3.6 million cost of the program for three years. It also would have ended the program in 2022 unless additional private funds were available. This was a bipartisan effort by a majority of senators to raise private funds for mental health in rural schools, and Gov Ricketts said it was unnecessary,” Walz said.

“Having worked with Bob Krist over the past two years I know that he is genuinely concerned about this issue. As Governor and Lt. Governor we will work to expand mental and behavioral health services to ensure we can reach those children and families who need help. Our rural communities are crying out in concern for this issue. It is critical that we work with our schools across Nebraska to accomplish this,” Walz said.  

“In this time of deadly school shootings, we must do all we can to ensure children who need mental health services receive them. Prevention is the solution to this issue. These children must not be ignored. They must not remain in the shadows. They need to receive help,” she said.

LB998 would have placed a mental health specialist in each of the state's 17 educational service units to help train teachers and provide assistance in identifying students in need of help. The costs would have been paid by private individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations at no cost to the taxpayer.