Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 | 7:08 p.m.
The state could save $14 million by changing the way it handles mental patients awaiting criminal trials, an executive audit revealed.
The Nevada Division of Internal Audits released its examination Friday that suggests redesigning part of the mental health system to achieve the savings.
After the report was unveiled, Gov. Brian Sandoval said many of the suggested changes have been made in light of the Rawson Neal Mental Hospital in Las Vegas and Lake’s Crossing in Washoe County being criticized recently by a variety of sources.
Warren Lowman, executive audit branch manager, suggested the state get psychiatrists and other professionals to assess and treat the mentally ill in jails to get them competent to stand trial.
Clark County currently flies these jail inmates to the secure Lake’s Crossing for mental therapy.
“Patients receiving treatment in local jails would be those assessed as needing a less intensive treatment regiment over a shorter period of time than patients transferred to Lake’s Crossing for competency restoration treatment and determination,” the audit said.
State officials suggested 30 percent of these patients could be treated in local jails in urban counties. The report said this alone would save Metro Police $36,000 a year in transportation costs. The police department now spends $100,000 for the transportation costs.
Mike Willden, director of the Nevada Health and Human Services Department, said there are 30 mental patients on the waiting list to be flown to Washoe County.
He said the number of criminal defendants found by judges to need mental treatment has increased by 300 percent in Clark County.
Richard Whitley, administrator of the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said an evaluation of this suggestion is already under way and should be completed by January.
A $5 million reconstruction project at the Stein Hospital in Las Vegas will add 42 forensic psychiatric beds by 2015 or 2016. The audit said the opening of Stein Hospital, a former state mental hospital, will reduce Lake's Crossing bed requirements by as many as 23 beds per day. When that happens, Lowman said the division could save $3 million annually by closing the secure unit at Lake’s Crossing.
Lake’s Crossing could be revamped to handle many of the patients being sent out of state because there is no treatment plan in Nevada, the audit said.
The state spent $31.5 million last year for out-of state facilities to provide mental health care for 263 Nevadans. Redesigning Lake’s Crossing to provide services for these patients, particular younger Nevadans, “could return spending of up to $3.6 million,” the report said.