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Sandoval Closes Advisory Council On Mental Health Services

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Rawson Neal Psychiatric Hospital became the symbol of a broken mental health system after it was accused of busing patients to California.

Nevada's mental health system has been under fire for years. 

In October, the state settled a $400,000 lawsuit with San Francisco for busing mentally ill patients to the city, an incident that was largely viewed as a sign of a broken system.

In 2014, Governor Brian Sandoval created a 20-person panel to examine the issues of mental health services in Nevada. 

The council’s goal was the find the problems, and recommend the changes. 

And they did - in May of 2015, the Nevada Behavioral Health and Wellness Council submitted their recommendations to the state, and at the end of 2015, presented another, revised list. 

Governor Brian Sandoval just recently decided to close the council. 

The question is why and how is the state doing with its mental health system?  

Joel Dvoskin, the former chairman of the council, told KNPR's State of Nevada that he hasn't spoken to the governor about why, but he believes one of the reasons is the "significant" expense of the council and that money is better used for services.

Dvoskin said the way forward for improving mental health care is clear and some of the recommendations by the council have already been implemented.

“The most important in my opinion was raising the Medicaid rate for inpatient psych, which the day after that happened Valley Hospital opened a new 50 bed inpatient psych unit, which was very much needed,” he said.

He said the state has worked to get its fair share of federal resources, which has allowed for more services at places like WestCare, which provides mental health and substance abuse services.

Dvoskin also pointed to a better coordination between first responders around Southern Nevada to help people in mental health crisis get help and avoid expensive trips to the emergency room. 

“They’ve definitely improved but I think everyone would agree there’s a lot of work left to do,” he said.

He said issues that still need work include services for children and older people. There also needs to be an expansion of crisis services. He said police need places to take people other than the jail or the emergency room.

Ellen Richardson-Adams, outpatient administrator with Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, told KNPR's State of Nevada that efforts to improve services are working.

She said the number of people waiting for services dropped dramatically over the past two years. She credits more federal money from Medicare and the expansion of people on Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act.

Joel Dvoskin, former chairman, Nevada Behavioral Health and Wellness Council; Ellen Richardson-Adams, outpatient administrator,  Nevada Department of Health and Human Services 

 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.