Beds added for Southern Nevada’s mentally ill

An additional 14 triage beds are now available for the mentally ill in Southern Nevada.

The Las Vegas WestCare triage center, at 930 N. Fourth St., opened the beds on Saturday. In mid-June, Gov. Brian Sandoval allocated $255,500 as the state’s share of funding for increasing the number of triage beds from 36 to 50. The state, local hospitals and local jurisdictions each pay one-third of the cost for the triage center.

The other parties involved have agreed with their portion of the funding, and WestCare officials feel confident, said Kevin Morss, regional vice president for WestCare Nevada. The total funding for the expansion was $766,000.

“I think you’ll start to see a little bit of a reduction of people sitting in hospital beds, in (emergency rooms),” he said Monday. “I still think the community needs another 30 to 50 beds. It will be interesting to see what 14 beds does.”

Sandoval took action in June on several recommendations to help mitigate some of the most immediate problems facing the state’s troubled mental health system. Increasing the number of triage beds is aimed at relieving the crisis local emergency rooms face — handling a large number of mentally ill patients seeking care the facilities are ill-equipped to provide.

The recommendations were submitted to Sandoval by the Behavioral Health and Wellness Council he formed last December.

“I think every bed helps, period,” said Dr. Dale Carrison, chief of staff and head of emergency services at University Medical Center.

UMC is still seeing a large number of mentally ill patients who need services, he said. But the hospital’s emergency room has not had to close to new patients recently due to exceeding capacity, Carrison said.

As of 8 a.m. Monday, there were 101 patients with mental health needs being held in emergency rooms throughout the valley, said Mary Woods, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. The number is typically higher on a Monday.

“We had an extremely busy weekend,” Morss said of the triage center.

Valley Hospital Medical Center is expected to open an inpatient psychiatric unit with about 50 beds on Dec. 1, hospital officials have said.

North Vista Hospital in late July converted 20 of its 60 geriatric psychiatric beds into short-term inpatient psychiatric beds for adults, 18-64, said Amy Kenneally, marketing director for the hospital. Hospital officials wanted to help reduce the burden local emergency rooms are experiencing.

“We just thought there was a need in the community for adult psychiatric care,” she said Monday. “We’ve been full since we started accepting patients.”

Contact Yesenia Amaro at or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.

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