93°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Clark County demands answers from WestCare in funding dispute

Updated May 1, 2018 - 10:09 pm

Clark County commissioners appeared frustrated Tuesday when representatives of WestCare, a national nonprofit addiction treatment group that has threatened to close its Las Vegas clinic, couldn’t answer questions about how it funds and administers care.

WestCare has threatened to close its Community Triage Center at 323 N. Maryland Parkway, the only detox treatment facility in Las Vegas, by the end of the month because of a funding dispute with local governments, hospitals and the state Department of Health and Human Services. WestCare had been receiving funding for the clinic through an “interlocal agreement” that expired June 2016, though it continued to serve clients and receive some funding after that date.

Commissioners said Tuesday that closing the WestCare clinic, following the closure of similar treatment centers in Las Vegas and Reno, could create a gap in services for the city’s most vulnerable.

“If it’s all about money, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty,” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said. “We all have a responsibility to step up to the plate and not make this about money.”

Audit found double-billing

He was referring to a county audit completed in January that showed WestCare owed the county about $1 million in credit for care also covered by Medicaid reimbursements. Since the audit’s release, commissioners said the county has been working unsuccessfully to negotiate a new funding agreement with WestCare.

WestCare would need up to $1.5 million to cover uncompensated costs from fiscal year 2018 and an additional $759,000 to cover the first half of fiscal 2019, WestCare consultant Dan Musgrove said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Almost half of WestCare’s services are uncompensated, either because clients have no insurance or have high-deductible plans and are unable to pay their portion of the bill. While the detox center has said it will add a state enrollment coordinator five days week to help clients enroll in Medicaid, that may only bring down the uncompensated rate slightly because many clients fear sharing their information with the government, said WestCare’s Executive Vice President Peggy Quigg.

“We may have just gotten a little ahead of ourselves thinking Medicaid is the end-all, be-all that we all want it to be,” Quigg told commissioners.

The center has operated with funding from “interlocal agreements” since 2002. Initially, the entities agreed on $3.6 million a year for the center. But funding was reduced to $2.8 million in 2008, according to WestCare.

When the contract expired in June 2016, Musgrove said WestCare figured payments would continue, even if a contract wasn’t signed until the county’s audit was completed. It wasn’t unprecedented for extensions of the contract to be delayed — but agreements were always established in the end, he said.

“We need someone to tell us how they’re going forward because we’re just a vendor. This is a community project,” Musgrove said. “They need to decide how they want to fund it.”

Client fears consequences

Without the detox center, Mike Lee, a WestCare alumnus, wonders whether those seeking long-term treatment would have a place to start.

Lee, 46, has been sober 17 months after a years-long battle with a methamphetamine addiction. He started his journey at WestCare’s detox center in March 2016 before transitioning to the organization’s men’s residential treatment center, Harris Springs Ranch, on Mount Charleston.

“It’s the only place that gives people a chance,” he said.

Before any agreement with WestCare is considered, commissioners want more answers. They invited representatives of the nonprofit to return to the May 15 commission meeting prepared to deliver additional information on how many clients it serves, the cost of uncompensated care and how WestCare keeps patients from becoming “frequent fliers” — repeat detox center visitors — through case management services.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani also asked whether other detox center providers could replace the services WestCare provides. Two providers have applied for licenses from the state, she was told by staff.

“I don’t think you guys honestly answered anybody’s question today,” Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said. “I don’t think you gave us enough detail to make an educated decision.”

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
THE LATEST