CARSON CITY — Nevada lawmakers have voted to restore funding for rural mental health clinics, keeping open nine clinics of the 11 that Gov. Jim Gibbons proposed to close.
The Senate-Assembly budget committee members previously decided to make the rural clinics a priority, and stuck with that plan on Tuesday.
Their decision would mean that the Dayton clinic, closed in September, would remain shut down. People who got care in Dayton were redirected to a Carson City clinic. The clinic in Wendover also would close. By adding nine clinics back into the budget, lawmakers must find about $1 million in additional revenue.
The panel also voted to approve the governor’s recommendation to eliminate some medication funding. The Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services had asked that $300,000 be added back in each of the coming two fiscal years to cover an additional 200 people needing medication, but the committee rejected the request after debate.
"I don’t want to ration medication for the seriously mentally ill," said Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. "It’s a public safety issue. If we don’t have the money for the medication, we’re looking at a potential disaster."
Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, suggested that the division could request additional funding from the lawmakers’ Interim Finance Committee, which meets between regular legislative sessions.
"We would certainly not ration medication if there was any other choice," said Harold Cook, mental health division chief.
Cook said when he first took office he requested additional funding from the Interim Finance Committee and was told never to do it again.
The panel agreed to cut the additional medication funding and to send a letter to the division stating that it should request money from IInterim Finance Committee if necessary.
Legislators also voted to approve the governor’s recommendation to eliminate four positions in an outpatient mental health care program, which would have allowed nearly 50 more clients into that program.
The panel also voted to restore 17 of 96 positions the governor proposed to cut primarily from the Rawson-Neal mental health facility in Las Vegas, which would cost over $1.6 million over the next two fiscal years.
"It’s a significant add-back, but I’m thinking we need to do it," Leslie said.
Faced with proposed cuts to substance abuse treatment programs, not listed as a high priority add-backs by the state, the budget panel voted to restore the funding by taking funds out of a methamphetamine education program budget. Both programs would continue.
The joint budget committee followed the governor’s budget recommendations on many mental health budget items, except for those that were identified as a priority "add-back" by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
That priority list, which totals over $40 million in add-backs in the department, has largely been adopted by legislators as their priorities.
"I think every penny of that can be justified," said Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas. "Otherwise, we will have unsafe staffing ratios, we will have rationing of medications, and we will stop health insurance for pregnant mothers."