By MARK ANDERSEN
July 5, 2010
Blue Valley Behavioral Health dawned in 1970, same as the 5th
Dimension's Grammy nominee "Age of Aquarius," but rural Southeast
Nebraska's behavioral health agency still helps to let the sun shine in.
As the private nonprofit agency celebrates turning 40, it finds
itself addressing issues brought on by the dawn of the Internet while
still confronting substance abuse issues unchanged since computers
could fill gymnasiums.
Alcohol and marijuana remain the No. 1 and No. 2 substance abuse
issues, says Blue Valley Director Jon Day.
Can you dig it?
But the culture, man, that's what's happening.
Permissive parenting, delayed social maturity and a cultural
predisposition to selfishness have flourished for a variety of
reasons, says Day, including more fractured marriages, childhoods
structured around year-round sports and communication via faceless electronics.
Texting was a convenience, he says, "but it's now to the point some
people use it to replace socializing."
People who once called when they had a problem with another person
now sit behind a keyboard, and, behold, "Now, I can say more," Day says.
Texting, although it's communication, isn't socializing, and so
social skills don't mature.
"We see that a lot," Day says.
"There's a lot of texting, a lot of things being said, and not just
to buddies at school but to hundreds of people."
Since its incorporation in 1970, Blue Valley has grown to serve the
15 rural counties of Southeast Nebraska clustered near urban
Lancaster County. With 11 scattered offices, Blue Valley offers
mental health and substance abuse counseling to a thinly populated
area as big as New Jersey.
Blue Valley makes up the geographic bulk of Region V, the state
conduit for mental health funding created in 1974 and expanded to
substance abuse in 1976.
It's rare for any group to have so many offices, Day says, but it's
important that people be able to reach an office quickly.
"If a person has to drive an hour to and from home, that's a two-hour
round trip, and an hour there, that makes three hours out of a day.
There aren't too many people who can take three hours."
So people tend to put it off, hoping it will get better, or they
discontinue therapy prematurely. And the longer a person waits to get
help, the harder it is to deal with the problems.
"A marital couple with trouble for three years will have a harder
time being successful in counseling, and you can take that same
premise to any problem," he says.
Blue Valley, which started in Beatrice and Fairbury, had expanded to
serve nine counties by 1995, when it added six more by taking over
financially struggling Pioneer Mental Health. A few years ago, Blue
Valley changed the latter half of its name from mental health to
behavioral health, the contemporary term for both mental health and
substance abuse services.
There have been some new trends in substance abuse, Day says.
Abuse of prescription drugs has grown, with kids taking their
parents' pain pills or selling their ADHD stimulants.
"But we still have a lot of people drinking and smoking weed down to
age 12," Day says.
Alcohol gets used widely in high school, but parents' attitudes have changed.
The old attitude: "I don't want you drinking."
The new: "It's OK, if it's in my house."
That's not parenting, Day says; it's a message that lets parents feel
better for making up for a lack of time spent with their kids.
Kids today not only have the opportunity to be busier than their
parents, he says, but there's more intensity with the things they do.
"Before, there was football and baseball, with a couple of months in
between. Now, kids are doing sports all year round."
There's more traveling. There's no time for dinner with parents. The
little time that's left goes to homework or jobs.
"Parents become permissive, because the kids don't have that social
interaction," Day says.
Just a few decades ago, a student was customarily a high school
senior before owning a car, he says.
Now, almost all 16-year-olds have a car.
"I know people who have lost their jobs but they still bought their
teen a car," he says.
"We're so quick to pay for things for the kids, so quick to do things
for the kids ... they end up selfish. They end up doing things for
themselves instead of for other people."
Therapy often aims at putting parents back in control, back parenting.
On a positive note, media portrayals have eroded th e stigma that was
once attached to therapy.
"In the past few years, people are a lot more willing to pursue
counseling," he says. "They see how normal it is.
"Pick up any newspaper, look at any computer, and there's somebody
dealing with an anxiety disorder."
Reach Mark Andersen at 473-7238 or email@example.com