CARSON CITY – A legislative panel on Thursday approved $3.5 million in funding sought by Gov. Brian Sandoval to take several immediate steps to improve Nevada’s overwhelmed mental health delivery system.
The five programs receiving funding were recommended by the Behavioral Health and Wellness Council formed by Sandoval in December to consider ways to expand treatment opportunities to Southern Nevada’s mentally ill population. The state Department of Health and Human Services will use unspent tobacco settlement funds to pay for their operation.
Mike Willden, chief of staff to Sandoval, told lawmakers he believes the tobacco funding will be sufficient to continue the programs into future budgets.
Most of the new programs focus on Southern Nevada with the exception of an expansion of a mobile crisis team for children in both Southern and Northern Nevada at a cost of $1.9 million. The team would consist of 19 staff members in Southern Nevada and eight in Northern Nevada.
Charlene Frost, a parent of two children with mental health issues, said the existing child crisis team in Southern Nevada has already helped 45 families. Care is provided in the home, she said.
“It’s made a huge difference,” Frost said.
Assemblyman Andy Eisen, D-Las Vegas, a physician, said the mobile crisis team for children is essential because of the lack of services for the population, who often end up waiting in emergency rooms for assistance.
“If we don’t take some of these initial steps we’ll never get anywhere,” he said.
The other short-term fixes aimed at Clark County include the establishment of a mobile outreach safety team, additional housing, an expansion of triage beds and an increase in the daily psychiatric reimbursement rate.
The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee also signed off on another $1.9 million to refurbish the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services in-patient facilities and to help with the backlog of patients showing up at local emergency rooms.
The money was allocated from a legislative contingency fund.
The 18-member behavioral health council appointed by Sandoval is expected to make a second round of recommendations focusing on long-term fixes to the state’s mental health system by the end of the year.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.