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More Money Helping Mental Health Care, Lack Of Workers A Big Barrier

Nevada’s handling of mentally ill patients over the years has left a lot to be desired.

The tipping point was an embarrassing lawsuit filed in September 2013 by the City and County of San Francisco that claimed hundreds of mental health patients from Nevada were being sent by bus to California when Nevada couldn’t handle the intake.

Governor Brian Sandoval made transforming the system a priority, and in 2014 formed a 20-person Behavioral Health and Wellness Council to address some of the issues.

After months of meetings, the council submitted a list of recommendations to the state in May, to which Gov. Sandoval responded by appropriating a sum of $3.5 million to immediately be put to use implementing some of the changes.

Council chair Joel Dvoskin told KNPR's State of Nevada the money went immediately to bringing the mental health care facility WestCare back up to capacity, making all 50 beds now available.

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But he said the real game changer was when the rate Medicaid paid for psychiatric care was changed. That allowed Valley Hospital to open 20 new beds. 

Changes to Medicaid also meant that Nevada was getting its fair share in federal money and more people were signed up for the aid, which meant a drop in uncompensated care, according to Dvoskin.  

The council held its last meeting Tuesday, Dec. 9, and will submit an updated report to the state by year’s end. Dvoskin said he is pleased with the work that has been accomplished, and acknowledged there is still much to be done, including recommendations that have to be approved by the State Legislature. 

Dvoskin told KNPR's State of Nevada one of the biggest barriers to getting good care for the mentally ill is getting the workers to care for them. 

"Biggest barrier is work force issues. The work force problem is very, very severe," Dvoskin said. 

He said there are not enough doctors, nurses or social workers.

Dvoskin said one solution to the problem would be to make it easier for someone licensed in another state to get a Nevada license when he or she moves here. The licensing process can take up to months at a time, and most people don't want to wait that long. 

GUEST

Joel Dvoskin, chair, Behavioral Health and Wellness Council

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