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Nevada lawmakers asked to reject cuts to state mental health spending


CARSON CITY — Mental health advocates continued to press state lawmakers Wednesday to reject cuts in state financial support to mental health programs.

“We are still not doing enough,” said Robin Reedy, a Gardnerville resident and member of the Nevada chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

If reductions in some programs, such as beds at state hospitals, are deemed appropriate, the savings should be invested in areas such as crisis intervention teams, particularly in the rural counties, she said.

Investing in these services will be far more cost effective than seeing increased demands on law enforcement and hospital emergency rooms, Reedy said.

A joint Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means budget subcommittee reviewed the budget for Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services.

Rick Porzig, president of NAMI Nevada, said the organization made an effort in Southern Nevada to find private providers who would accept new Medicaid patients. Of 208 listed, 39 were identified as taking new patients.

Of those, 11 confirmed they would take new patients, but the waiting time was more than nine days.

Those in need of services would not be able to undertake this effort to find a provider, and could not wait that long for crisis treatment, Porzig said.

“We have a minimal safety net, and we cannot lose that,” he said.

For Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, state support would decrease from $93 million to $83 million, with the loss of 38 staff.

Funding for Southern Nevada mental health, when all revenue sources are counted, would decline from $174 million in the current budget to $169.6 million, a 2.6 percent reduction.

DECREASED DEMAND

With potential changes to Medicaid in Congress, any proposals that continue to rely on the program for expanded mental health coverage could put those services in jeopardy, speakers told the lawmakers.

The state Division of Public and Behavioral Health has proposed cutting state spending on mental health budgets because of lower demand for state-sponsored services. Medicaid now covers more Nevadans because of the expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The reason for the decline in state funding is a 33 percent reduction in the use of the agency’s outpatient clinics between June 2013 to June 2016. Nearly all of the job losses are in the medications area because fewer prescriptions are being filled by state staff.

Those on Medicaid get their prescriptions filled through pharmacies.

Cody Phinney, administrator of the Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said the budget proposed by the agency envisions expanded community involvement in dealing with the mentally ill population. This will allow the state to use its resources where they are needed most, she said.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.