Experts release independent review of Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital

The Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas faces challenges that aren’t uncommon, according to an independent report by two national experts released Thursday afternoon.

Consultants Joel Dvoskin and Dr. Kenneth Appelbaum were at the hospital about two weeks ago and took a thorough look at all aspects of the hospital, a review requested by Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services in the wake of several investigations, including one by federal officials after allegations of patient dumping.

“Nevada is by no means unique regarding challenges in mental health funding and services,” the report says. “Every state currently grapples with issues similar to the ones identified in this report. Indeed, during the past 12 years of fiscal challenges, state mental health systems across the country have experienced severe cuts in funding.”

This is one of several reports on the hospital and more are pending.

Rawson-Neal came under scrutiny after James F. Brown, who had been discharged from the hospital, was bused to Sacramento, where he had no family or support waiting for him.

Dvoskin and Appelbaum found a number of ways in which the hospital can improve, identifying many of the same issues that have been singled out by hospital officials. The areas of improvement include treatment services, treatment and discharge planning, increasing staff, improving documentation and suicide prevention, according to the report.

“Many hospital staff persons told us that they have long felt under pressure to move patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible to free up beds for other individuals in need of admission,” the report said.

At the time of consultants’ visit, 50 percent of psychiatrist positions were vacant, and some of them were filled with contracted doctors, the report said. In addition, there is a need to hire more staff, including mental health technicians, social workers and psychologists and occupational therapists.

Not all the findings were negative.

Consultants commended staff’s compassion, competence and professionalism.

State officials welcomed the feedback.

“I think the report was fair and comprehensive,” said Mike Willden, director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. “I’m happy that is factual and I think it was right on point.”

The consultants have taken a look many other facilities across the country, Willden said, which is why they contracted them.

Sandoval also sent out a statement after the report was released, saying the state is committed to ensuring that the vulnerable are treated with dignity and care.

“As I have stated before, improperly discharging one patient is one patient too many,” he said. “We are committed to implementing the recommendations in this report, and I am confident doing so will help improve the services the State of Nevada provides to the mentally ill.”

The state has proposed more than $16 million to fund mental health programs and initiatives, including additional long-term care beds at the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, Willden said. The additional beds would be used to pull long-term patients out of Rawson-Neal and place them at the old mental hospital in Las Vegas. These recommendations have largely been approved by the Legislative Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees.

Officials are also hopeful that a $4 million reserve will be approved by the state Legislature. Willden said those funds would be used to implement recommendations from consultants, including the hiring or more staff, as well as other recommendations that could be highlighted in reports that have yet to be completed by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Joint Commission, an independent organization that accredits hospitals.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at or 702-383-0440.

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