AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 | 4:32 p.m.
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s administration has faced months of difficulties with the state’s struggling mental health system.
But while he’s faced personal criticism from the Nevada Democratic Party, his family also has personal experience working with the mentally ill. First Lady Kathleen Sandoval, who evaluates mental health issues as program director with the Children’s Cabinet in Reno, plans to speak in Las Vegas this weekend at a mental health walk benefitting the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southern Nevada.
The walk, and Kathleen Sandoval’s remarks come at a time when Nevada’s mental health system has been fraught with recession-era budget cuts, the loss of accreditation and certification from oversight agencies, and lawsuits alleging the staff at the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas improperly bused hundreds of patients out of state without regard to their well-being.
Kathleen Sandoval has spoken before at mental health events, but this will be the first time this year that she has publicly addressed mental health issues in Southern Nevada, where the bulk of the state’s mental health controversies and structural deficiencies have been reported.
“This is something that I’d say the first lady has been very involved with for some time,” said Mac Bybee, communications director for the governor’s office. “The first lady and the governor are both invited to a variety of events and asked to speak at a number of events throughout the state. This was one of the events where the organizers approached the first lady and requested that she speak.”
Sue Gaines, the president of NAMI of Southern Nevada, said she’s very excited to have the first lady speak about the stigma surrounding mental illness and raise awareness about mental health.
“She’s an advocate for mental health and especially for children,” Gaines said.
Gaines said the mentally ill are often poor and cannot access quality preventative dental services.
“A lot of times the (psychiatric) medications that they have to take, that can have part of a side effect and they could get a gum disease that they can’t get taken care of,” she said.
So the mental health group is hoping to raise money at the walk, which starts Saturday at 9 a.m. at Sunset Park.
“This year, we’re trying to get dental coverage for people who don’t have it, people who are on Medicaid,” said John Turchetto, a Metro Police officer who is organizing the NAMI walk. “The (state) government won’t do maintenance on their teeth,only extractions.”
Like many states, Nevada’s Medicaid system covers the minimum required services: extractions and pain relief. Other states cover more optional dental services for adults.
Turchetto said he’s hoping physicians in the Las Vegas area will accept payment from the money raised at the event in exchange for providing dental services to the mentally ill.
“Our goal is to go out and reach dentists and the colleges and anybody who deals with dental and see if they would get on board and join a coalition of dentists to help provide these services,” he said.