weather icon Clear

Lawmakers, hospital officials take issue with Sandoval’s budget reductions for mental health services

CARSON CITY — Questions and concerns were raised at a Senate hearing Wednesday on the adequacy of state funding for mental health treatment, with lawmakers and hospital officials questioning budget reductions proposed in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s 2017-19 budget.

Bill Welch, representing the Nevada Hospital Association, told the Health and Human Services Committee that he is perplexed about the plan to reduce funding because the need for services is increasing.

While there was some improvement from the crisis situation three years ago, the situation has taken a turn for the worse, he said.

Welch said he surveyed the state’s hospitals ahead of the hearing and found 151 patients with mental health issues in their emergency rooms, with 112 medically cleared but waiting for placement.

“For whatever reason, we’re losing ground again,” he said.

The reduction in funding for state-funded mental health programs has been proposed because of an expanded Medicaid program from the Affordable Care Act. Sandoval’s budget proposes reductions in state programs because more Nevadans are eligible for Medicaid and can get mental health treatment through the program funded both by the state and federal government.

Funding for clinical services is about $169 million this year. That would be reduced to $143 million, or 15 percent less, in 2017-18, and to $140 million, or 2 percent less, in 2018-19.

Mental health funding is expected to be a major issue for many lawmakers in the 2017 session.

Welch said he is not criticizing state officials because a lot of effort is being made to treat this population. He suggested that Sandoval convene a summit to address the issue.

“We have to meet this head on,” said committee Chairwoman Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas.

Failing to move quickly is the difference between changing the oil in your car or waiting and having to replace the engine, she said.

Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, said there are many gaps in Nevada’s mental health treatment system. Even if the dollars are not needed in one area, they are needed in others, she said.

Cody Phinney, administrator of the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, told the committee that the agency will work with all those involved in the delivery of mental health services. But she asked lawmakers to consider the whole system, including the expansion of access to health care through Medicaid, as the discussion moves forward.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
House committee OKs bill by Titus for airport signs

The House Homeland Security Committee approved a bill by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Wednesday to translate airport signs into multiple languages to assist tourists and others who don’t speak English.