Why do students come to Doane’s Lincoln campus? Lots of them are looking for new paths forward in their careers, or to break into a brand new field. It can be difficult for students to visualize where their schooling will take them, and without that vision, it can be difficult to engage with what they’re learning. This is true for graduate and undergraduate students alike.
“A lot of that is trying to get students engaged with the knowledge,” says Jean Kilnoski, assistant professor of practice and clinical placement director for Doane’s Master of Arts in Counseling program. “Not just trying to share knowledge or master content, but helping them see how that content applies.”
It’s beneficial for students to see when an alumnus of their program demonstrates professional success after graduation. It’s even more beneficial when a successful alumnus returns the favor, working with Doane to show students exactly what they can do with their potential.
One alumnus of the MAC program has particularly distinguished himself in this way. Not only to faculty and peers, but to his own employees and the hundreds of vulnerable community members his business serves. Jeromie Luginbill ‘15L, ‘18C is the owner and founder of Integrated Behavioral Health Services, a relatively new but already large and growing company serving people with severe and persistent mental illnesses in Lincoln.
"For me, working with this population, it’s more of a humanistic and political drive. We can bring people who have been pushed out back, and help them get better and move on. And we are very successfully doing that."-Jeromie Luginbill
Integrated Behavioral Health Services is the culmination of decades of work by Jeromie in the human services industry, and the education he received at Doane, both as an undergraduate Human Relations major and in the MAC graduate program. Jeromie founded IBHS while he was still a MAC student, in February 2017.
“The challenge is first overcoming the fear of starting your own business, and second understanding what a person is going to have to dig into and read and research, like Medicaid standards and guidelines, insurances, reporting procedures, etc.,” Jeromie says. “I asked myself why do I do what I do? Why do I keep doing stuff for other people? Why don’t I do stuff on my own? That’s how I ended up starting Integrated Behavioral Health Services.”
Jeromie fully utilized his time in Doane’s MAC program to maximize his professional skills from the beginning of IBHS.
“Jeromie’s evolution through the program allowed him to solidify his professional identity,” Kilnoski says. “Without coming to the counseling program, Jeromie could have continued to be an advocate and continued to do work for people with either developmental disabilities or with severe and persistent mental illness, but I think his journey through the program helped him narrow his focus so he identified the specific population he wanted to serve, and as part of that he was able to figure out his role in serving that population.”
IBHS has developed a positive reputation in the state during its short history. The agency is known for its integrated, progressive approach toward caring for people with severe and persistent mental illness, and for taking on some of the “hardest” cases in the state: people with severe mental health problems who haven’t found success anywhere else.
“What we’re actually known for in the state is taking some of the most difficult people,” Jeromie says. “We get people from all over. We’re very creative, we’re flexible, and one of the things I’m most proud of in the team here is that I haven’t heard a single complaint about taking difficult cases.”
Jeromie’s staff adores the work they do. The business has grown rapidly in a short time, and with that comes growing pains, but thanks to Jeromie’s steady and experienced leadership, they’ve been able to meet the challenge. His staff has taken notice.
“He’s my favorite boss I’ve ever had,” says Erin Sindel ‘14L, ‘18C, clinical director at IBHS and Jeromie’s first hire. “He’s open to discussion, to new ideas, and not doing everything in a vacuum.
“We’re doing things no one in the community is doing. We’re taking people no one else will take. Since we’ve been around there has been a marked decrease in use of emergency room services by people with severe and persistent mental illness in the community.”
Jeromie’s instructors remember the work he put in while at Doane. They are extremely proud of what he’s been able to build at IBHS.
“I think one of the things that makes Jeromie so good at this is that he recognizes that this is bigger than just him,” says Courtney East, director of the MAC program and Jeromie’s clinical supervisor during his time at Doane. “He has the ability to see the humanity in people. That’s what makes the service that they’re providing different. It’s that. In talking to him and his employees, it's a wellness focus. We’re not scared of people with differences, we’re not criminalizing people with differences, it’s wellness focused. Let’s serve the human behind it. That’s what’s going to make this a really successful business.”
Jeromie had a long history in human services before he came to Doane. He started working in the field in 1999 with Developmental Services of Nebraska. Over nearly the next two decades he moved around the industry, working as a residential rehabilitation provider, substance abuse counselor, corrections worker and more for a variety of regional providers. He did substance abuse counseling work near the Pine Ridge Reservation, and upon returning to Lincoln in 2007 he got more involved with the administrative side of human services, working for several local agencies and as a contractor.
He attended Doane’s undergraduate program for Human Relations from “2002 or 2003” onward in stops and starts, finally getting his bachelor’s degree in 2015. From there he entered the MAC program directly and finished it straight through. Despite his prodigious experience in the field, Jeromie was still able to positively utilize his time at Doane.
“Doane was just a perfect alignment,” Jeromie says. “The faculty there held me accountable to everything required. I didn’t get any extra breaks. They knew I had started my business. I was aware of how stressful that was, but I wasn’t aware of how stressful it would become.
“I think what the master’s program was able to do for me, is they would expect me to meet the requirements that were set forth, but they would challenge me to go beyond the requirements. If we had a goal of understanding Medicaid rules and guidelines, I was able to take it farther than what they were asking for. The faculty would encourage me to go beyond that.”
Jeromie’s instructors were thrilled by Jeromie’s wealth of knowledge and experience, but also with how he was able to use it to elevate his classmates. He shared his experience in a mentorship capacity, freely and humbly, and it showed.
“Jeromie’s experience probably exceeded every other student’s in the program, and it exceeded many of his instructors,” Kilnoski says.
"What made Jeromie unique in the program was his humility that he came to each class with. He went into every class with the idea that he could still learn, and that he could share his background and his knowledge in a way that wouldn’t make other people kind of feel diminished."- Jean Kilnoski
Jeromie excelled at Doane and beyond. IBHS is a booming success, offering a full range of mental health services including outpatient mental health, transitional living, community support, day rehab programs, and psychiatric residential services. The company has already outgrown its second location, which they’ve barely been at a year. The growth surprises Jeromie.
“IBHS took off to as big or bigger than most of the other regional agencies in about a 2-year period,” he says. “I never would have expected the growth.”
The quality of Jeromie’s leadership and of the services IBHS provides is a testament to Jeromie’s skill and dedication as a student and practitioner. It should also serve as a model for the success Doane students can achieve if they approach their studies diligently, and with a human focus in mind.
“People in the mental health profession want to get in the field, but they haven’t always done the work that it takes,” Jeromie says. “I just try to encourage people to think about and learn about truly about what is being said. If we’re talking about person centered therapy, don’t just say you’re a person centered therapist without really going through and learning what that is.”