Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 | 5:45 p.m.
The number of hospital emergency room patients in Las Vegas waiting for transfer to the state’s mental health system isn’t decreasing.
Mike Willden, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said today the latest count was 85 patients waiting to be sent to the Rawson Neal Psychiatric Hospital, and the number has been as high as 120 patients.
But he added that less than 30 percent of those individuals don’t need in-patient mental health care.
His statements came at a meeting of the Legislative Interim Finance Committee that unanimously agreed to allocate $3 million from the emergency fund to expand the Stein Hospital in Las Vegas by 58 beds.
This was the latest chapter in the continuing controversy over mental health treatment of patients in Southern Nevada. It started when it was revealed that the mental hospital had a practice of busing out-of-state patients to their homes without adequate treatment plans.
Outside the meeting Willden said the state has filed a complaint with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that a mental hospital in Napa, Calif., had sent one of its patients to Nevada. And he said there are instances where other states have transferred their patients into the Nevada mental health system.
The interim committee previously approved $2.1 million for Rawson Neal to hire more staff and build 22 more beds. The hospital is now hiring the staff, and the added beds should be ready by November.
The Legislature, at the request of Gov. Brian Sandoval, set aside more than $2 million to remodel the Stein Hospital, the former mental health center in Las Vegas.
Willden said his agency wants an additional $3 million to add to the project to have 42 beds for patients with criminal holds on them and 16 beds for civil patients. But that $5 million project won’t be completed until the summer of 2015.
And Willden told the committee that he will be back before the 2015 Legislature with a request for up to $15 million to staff Stein for two years.
Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, chairwoman of the committee, told Willden she was puzzled why the number of emergency room patients was not dropping. Willden replied, “The majority do not need to come into our system.”
Other services are being used to treat these patients.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said it will stop federal funds to pay for eligible patients on Nov. 6 at Rawson Neal hospital unless improvements are made. The federal agency plans to conduct an unannounced inspection to see if the planned corrections have been carried out.
The state’s mental hospital in Reno handles treatment of patients who are under law enforcement holds. Willden said 65 percent of those at Lake’s Crossing are from Clark County. And there is a waiting list to fly the patients to Reno.
He said there will be 10 more bed openings in November at Lake’s Crossing to help alleviate the problem.
Willden said he expects the Joint Commission on Accreditation to return in December to again review Rawson Neal. The commission withdrew its accreditation after its first inspection.