CHADRON – Nearly 40 behavioral health professionals and students attended the seventh annual Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) conference at Chadron State College June 14.

According to Dr. Tara Wilson and Dr. Catherine Jones-Hazledine, co-directors of BHECN Panhandle, the conference is designed for clinical social workers, licensed psychologists, psych nurse practitioners, and licensed mental health practitioners in rural areas of the state.

Wilson and Jones-Hazledine said the theme for this year’s conference was determined based on feedback received from local providers about topics of interest and importance. Three goals for the conference included discussion of best practices so attendees can make ethical, effective, and efficient diagnoses and treatment planning for psychiatric conditions, helping attendees differentiate bipolar disorder from other mood disorders, and identifying challenges in diagnosing borderline personality disorder to ensure accurate identification and effective treatment.

April Wagner, a student in CSC’s clinical mental health counseling master’s degree program, said the conference was beneficial.

“This conference has been helpful because we’ve reviewed a lot of the concepts we talked about in class, and they have provided real-world examples so it's easier to understand,” Wagner said.

She also said her conference notes will be useful in a final paper she is composing for a summer course.

“It helps me to look at things differently. It's been interesting to see other perspectives and I think to see perspectives of clients. One speaker said you can't differentiate unless you know the biological aspects. They used the example of an alligator versus a crocodile. They look very similar, unless you see their biological makeup and see how different they are. The same goes for different diagnoses and different people,” Wagner said.

Stephanie Gill earned her master’s in clinical mental health from CSC in May and will be working with the Volunteers of America (VOA), Northern Rockies branch in Sundance, Wyoming. The conference was a learning experience for Gill.

“I was really excited to come to the conference because my internship revolved heavily around children. I'm starting a new job, which is 180 degrees different from my internship. So, I was pleased to see the speakers and what they were going to present. It was necessary to come back and get this information so I can be better prepared for my job,” Gill said.

Gill said VOA has recently added clinical therapy and counseling to the services they provide which include community outreach, homelessness, and veterans’ affairs.