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WestCare plans more beds for mentally ill by November

Additional triage beds for the mentally ill in Southern Nevada will open by Nov. 1, according to Richard Steinberg, president and chief executive officer of the WestCare Foundation.

WestCare also plans to open another facility early next year, he said.

Intervention services for children and adults are also on the way.

The burden of treating the mentally ill in emergency rooms not equipped or staffed to handle them “is still there,” said Dr. Dale Carrison, chief of staff and head of emergency services at University Medical Center. “But I’m absolutely convinced that things are moving in the right direction.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Council met Monday and received an update on the recommendations that Sandoval approved in June to mitigate the most immediate problems facing the state’s troubled mental system.

The council also heard presentations about senior mental health and opportunities for programs and services that can be funded by Medicaid reimbursement.

In June, the state put forward $255,500 as the state’s share of funding to expand the number of triage beds at the Las Vegas WestCare triage center from 36 to 50. The state, the local hospitals and the local jurisdictions each pay a portion of the cost for the WestCare triage center.

Conversations are still ongoing between the other parties involved to align their fiscal years while others have already given approval, Steinberg said.

“It’s a little risky on our part,” he said of opening the beds by Nov. 1. “But we’ve got to take the risk. It needs to be done.”

WestCare has also obtained a property in Las Vegas where it plans to open a 50-bed facility next January, Steinberg said. That would be an expanded triage center, and the current triage center would be used for a step-down services facility.

Additional services for children are also coming to fruition.

Kelly Wooldridge, deputy administrator for the state’s Division of Child and Family Services, said the 27 staff members for the expanded mobile crisis team for children have all been hired. They are all expected to begin work by Oct. 20 and the team will be operating by Nov. 1.

“My goal is that eventually we won’t respond to emergency room calls at all,” she said.

Officials want to intervene before children get to the emergency room, she said. The team in Clark County is already working with the schools and officials plan to ramp up those efforts.

Meanwhile, the mobile outreach safety team, by no later than Nov. 17, will also begin conducting next-day referrals to calls that officers with the Metropolitan Police Department respond to regarding a mentally ill person, said Dr. Tracey Green, the state’s chief medical officer. It could be possible that the team may respond to a call with officers, but the team will mainly respond the next day and make sure the individual has the resources needed.

“I think that the next-day response will be really good to assure people are getting the follow up resources and referrals,” she said.

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

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