By Forrest Hershberger
Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Cheyenne County

Mental Health Counselor Opens Office at WNCC


August 22, 2018

Forrest Hershberger

Nichole Peralta, left, and Paula Abbott, Western Nebraska Community College Sidney Campus Director, display a cake in honor of Peralta opening a Karuna Counseling. Her office is in the WNCC Business Incubator and Entrepreneurship center. A ceremony was held recently recognizing businesses in the program.

A few months ago, Panhandle Health Group announced the end of mental health services to the Cheyenne County area.

The end of services was primarily due to loss of state funding, according to Nichole Peralta.

Peralta has been with Panhandle Health for six years and part of the Sidney community for nine years.

"Moving wasn't really an option," she said.

She saw a need for mental health and substance abuse counseling and looked for a way to continue practicing in Sidney. For her, it wasn't just about staying employed in Sidney. It was and continues to be providing a needed service to the community.

She is one of few in the regional dually licensed in mental health counseling and substance abuse counseling.

She is also the second success story celebrated at Western Nebraska Community College Thursday. WNCC celebrated two businesses who started in the college's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

Peralta said the closing of Panhandle Health left hundreds of local residents without care.

"The Panhandle is very sparse in mental health services," she said.

Panhandle Health Group's mental health services ended on June 30, and Peralta opened her office at WNCC on July1.

She has since acquired a contract for mental health and substance abuse services. Her clientele is increasing exponentially, especially now with the only other substance abuse counselor resigning recently.

Her history with WNCC began when a friend heard about the incubator program. She met with Paula Abbot, WNCC Sidney Campus Director, and soon she was one of the programs taking advantage of the business incubator space. The office is bright and colorful with all of the typical decorations: brightly painted walls, intriguing artwork and the almost cliché comfortable loveseat. She has contracted with a company that does most of her secretarial work for her, which lets her focus on what she does best: meet with people.

"That company is amazing," she says.

One of her assets is she came with a caseload from Panhandle Health; she didn't need to recruit patients or hope one or two would darken her door as if she is new to the community or occupation. She works with educational programs and senior populations.She continues to stay involved with the Sidney community as well as develop her practice. She is part of the suicide awareness walk scheduled for next month. Her clientele has increased to the point she is considering an additional counselor.


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