LINCOLN — The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services wants ideas about how to improve the care of abused and neglected children in the Omaha area.

Currently, HHS contracts with the nonprofit PromiseShip, formerly the Nebraska Families Collaborative, to manage cases and provide services for children and families in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

The contract, worth up to $71.5 million annually, expires on June 30, 2019.

In anticipation, state officials last week issued a formal request for comments, suggestions and information about “creative approaches and best practices” in case management, service delivery and service coordination.

The request seeks ideas especially about how to better meet the “unique and individual needs of families,” along with minimizing gaps in services, using multiple funding sources to maximize federal dollars and improving the performance of subcontractors serving families.

Jennifer Brantley, an HHS spokeswoman, said the agency plans to launch a new bidding process for Omaha-area case management based on feedback provided through the request for information.

“Everything that’s submitted will be considered,” she said, noting that officials hope to seek bids next year.

HHS officials put the case management contract out to bid in October 2016, seven years after the state undertook a disastrous attempt to privatize child welfare statewide.

The Omaha-based PromiseShip, formed by Boys Town and other private Omaha-area child welfare agencies, is the only surviving contractor from that experiment. HHS employees manage child welfare cases in all other parts of the state.

The contract with PromiseShip has been expanded and extended multiple times. The most recent extension was approved in May 2017, after state officials rejected both bids for a new long-term contract.

Two months earlier, HHS officials had announced plans to award the contract to PromiseShip, but the other bidder, Magellan Choices for Families, filed a protest on April 13. Officials ended the bidding process in early May, saying there was not time to resolve the protest before the existing contract ran out.

People or entities interested in providing ideas should provide their submissions by 2 p.m. June 25 to dhhs.procurement@nebraska.gov. More information about the request is available at das.nebraska.gov/materiel/purchasing/RFI%20ESA/RFI%20ESA.html.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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