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Legislative money panels adopt Sandoval mental health funding


CARSON CITY — The Legislature’s money committees on Saturday approved nearly $6.5 million in new funding for mental health programs, using money from a windfall tobacco settlement as recommended by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The additional funding includes $1.4 million for a second Program for Assertive Community Treatment team in Southern Nevada.

The PACT team will work with mental health clients who are in the community and who have frequent involvement with law enforcement and a history of noncompliance with their mandated medication treatment plans.

The PACT team is expected to be able to serve 75 clients for periods of time ranging from six months to two years.

The funding will re-establish the second PACT team that had been lost to budget cuts, and will help the Department of Health and Human Services implement a bill sponsored by Assembly­man Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, to allow the involuntary commitment of some mentally ill individuals to outpatient services instead of requiring hospitalization.

Assembly Bill 287 is set for a hearing Monday in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

“We’ve heard the issues; we know there are things that have to be addressed,” said Ways and Means Chairwoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas. “It’s nice that we were able to find the money and hopefully we will be able to address some of them.”

Also approved was $2 million for the creation of a pilot program for mental health home visits to help clients and their families eliminate any potential dangers in the household, including access to weapons.

Southern Nevada will receive $1.44 million for 650 visits and Northern Nevada will get $580,000 for 250 visits. The home safety assessments will be performed by clinicians.

The final program seeing approval was $3 million to add 10 more beds at the Lakes Crossing facility for mentally ill offenders in Sparks. The funding will pay for the physical expansion and the 20 new positions.

The beds are needed to maintain compliance with a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals standard that people waiting for admission to the facility spend no more than seven to 10 days in local jails.

The spending proposals were approved by the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees as part of Sandoval’s overall two-year budget that will begin July 1.

Another piece of the new mental health funding will be $1.4 million to improve a now vacant facility adjacent to the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas so that 10 additional beds can be added to care for long-term patients in Southern Nevada. This funding recommendation will be taken up at a later date.

In all, Sandoval proposed nearly $8 million in new funding for mental health programs in Nevada in the upcoming budget from the tobacco settlement.

The funding is coming from a one-time additional financial settlement from tobacco companies totaling $21 million.

Another $7.3 million of the settlement is proposed to be set aside for the state Health and Human Services Department to deal with any budget issues related to the federal sequester.

The new money is in addition to $4.1 million Sandoval previously announced for a mental health jails re-entry program from savings found in his proposed budget.

It is also in addition to the $800,000 allocated to a 24-7 urgent care mental health center in Las Vegas that was part of his original budget.

The approximately $13 million in additional funding for mental health programs in Nevada over the next two years has been called “substantial” by agency Director Mike Willden.

He said recently that it is not directly related to the controversy over the re­location of patients from Rawson-Neal.

“The money will help the overall mental health program,” Willden said. “It will add more safety, more staff and more resources. It is a significant improvement.”

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

 

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