Advocate for Nebraska behavioral health receives Distinguished Service Award

First Award for Distinguished Service goes to Neligh, Neb. native

The Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) has awarded its first Award for Distinguished Service to Michael Rice, Ph.D., of Neligh, Neb.

Until recently, Dr. Rice served as associate clinical director of BHECN and was a professor and psychiatric nurse practitioner at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing. He recently accepted a position as professor and endowed chair at the College of Nursing on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver.

The award is given for inspirational leadership, service, advocacy, and passion for the behavioral health of Nebraska. He is recognized for his skill as a teacher, dedication to research, vision in integrating technology and health services delivery, and his passion for the people of rural Nebraska.

“Michael is one of BHECN’s founding members, and has provided tremendous leadership to the organization through his expertise in telehealth, policy, workforce development, and commitment to rural Nebraska,” said Howard Liu, M.D., medical director of BHECN and director of faculty development programs at UNMC. “He has been an innovator in social media and e-learning as well as a mentor to many talented students and faculty members.” 

Dr. Liu also praised Dr. Rice and his colleagues for leading a grant that increased by 43, the number of students who’ve graduated from the master’s degree in psychiatric nurse practitioner program. The grant initiated a way for Nebraskans to earn the degree through distance technology. Psychiatric nurse practitioners diagnose and treat patients, as well as prescribe medications.

Dr. Rice said during the time he spent at BHECN, he was privileged to meet consumers, providers and community champions of behavioral mental health in Nebraska. “Their collective voice provided the foundation that center was built on. Their dedication and commitment was humbling and encouraged all of us to take steps that lead to a better future.

"As we started BHECN, we were always mindful that it was about those suffering from mental illness and their children, husbands, wives, neighbors and communities,” Dr. Rice said.

BHECN was established in 2009 by LB 603 to support the recruitment, retention and increased education and training of the behavioral health workforce in Nebraska as well as provide statewide access to behavioral health providers.

Joseph Evans, Ph.D., succeeds Dr. Rice as BHECN’s associate clinical director. Dr. Evans is a professor and director of the Psychology Department at MMI at the Munroe-Meyer Institute and division director of pediatric psychology in the UNMC College of Medicine.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.





Vicky Cerino
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-5190