The expansion of triage beds for the mentally ill in Southern Nevada may finally come to fruition.
It’s been nearly four months since Gov. Brian Sandoval in mid-June acted to mitigate some of the most immediate problems facing the state’s troubled mental health system. One of the measures addressed the crisis local emergency rooms are experiencing — a large number of mentally ill patients seeking care that the facilities are ill-equipped to provide.
The state allocated $255,5000 as its share in funding the expansion of triage beds from 36 to 50 at the Las Vegas WestCare triage center. The state, local hospitals and local jurisdictions each pay one-third of the cost for the triage center.
“WestCare is very close to opening up the additional 14 beds,” Maurice Lee, chief operating officer of WestCare said in a statement last week. “With the help of the Southern Nevada privately owned hospitals, local governments, and the state working with us on possible Medicaid reimbursement for crisis services — we feel comfortable that we will have sufficient funding.”
It’s just a matter of finalizing details with the parties involved, she said. WestCare officials couldn’t specify when those beds will open.
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Council meets today at 9 a.m. at the Sawyer Building, 555 E. Washington Ave. The council will focus on senior mental health. State officials will give a presentation regarding additional opportunities for programs and services that can be funded by Medicaid reimbursement.
The council will also discuss drafting recommendations for the next report that’s due to Sandoval by Dec. 31 for long-term fixes to the system.
Bill Welch, president and chief executive officer of the Nevada Hospital Association, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Mary Woods, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said state officials know that local hospitals and local jurisdictions are coming up with their portion of the funding.
There was no resistance from those two parties in supplying the additional funding, Woods said, although coordination was needed to align the fiscal years of the involved entities.
State officials are also “working with WestCare to help them identify other Medicaid reimbursable services and … help them submit Medicaid claims,” she said, adding that is part of the educational process now that many more Nevadans are enrolled in Medicaid.
As of the end of September 2013, there were 330,623 people enrolled in the pre-Affordable Care Act Medicaid, Woods said. As of the end of August 2014, there were 601,781 people enrolled in Medicaid, representing an 82 percent increase in the number of Medicaid clients in the state.
A legislative subcommittee on health care met on Thursday for more than two hours and talked about regionalization of the mental health system and how the recommendations from the governor’s council are moving forward.
Assemblyman Andy Eisen, D-Las Vegas, explained to Council Chairman Joel Dvoskin why some people were somewhat skeptical about what’s going to happen.
Some people have been here for a long time, he said. The state was facing similar problems with its mental health system almost a decade ago.
People find themselves having similar conversations about the system now.
“Certainly, that’s a source of frustration, but this is a problem that has developed over decades,” he said. “It takes some effort, some planning. Even (with) these initial steps, you can’t just decide you are going to open new beds and open new beds the next day.”
It’s important to keep the momentum, of the council and all other groups involved in addressing the mental health issues, alive, he said.
“I would expect that we would see some legislation in 2015 to get us started with some of the changes that we need to see,” Eisen said.
It will take more than one legislative session to implement change, he said.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with skepticism,” he said. “That’s what promotes careful examination of what we are looking at.”
Contact Yesenia Amaro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.