Las Vegas Sun

June 16, 2019

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Gibbons’ skewed priorities

Privatizing mental health services would shortchange Nevadans who need help

In an effort to pare funding for state services even more, Gov. Jim Gibbons says he is considering hiring a private company to administer part or maybe all of Nevada’s mental health services.

The Las Vegas Sun reported Tuesday that Gibbons and Mike Willden, director of Nevada’s Health and Human Services Department, said they have met with private contractors to explore the possibility.

Willden told members of the state Commission on Mental Health and Developmental Services last week that all options must be considered as the state struggles with a 14 percent budget cut.

Carlos Brandenburg, former administrator of the state Mental Health and Developmental Services Division, told Sun reporter Cy Ryan that those who support privatization say companies typically operate without the bureaucracy of government and can “make decisions more rapidly to assign the necessary resources where the greatest needs occur.”

Gretchen Greiner, chairwoman of the Nevada mental health commission, said allowing a private company to take over the system likely would result in fewer mental health services in rural areas — where a gap in such services already exists.

Greiner also said Nevada already is running short on money, so it seems unlikely the state could garner enough funding to lure private interests.

Commissioner Eric C. Albers added: “We’re lean already. How are we going to become much leaner?”

The whole notion of privatizing the state’s mental health system is a terrible one that Gibbons has been pushing since last year.

His failure to recognize the needs of a growing state, his pledge of no new taxes and his twisted priorities have left Nevada’s social services in the lurch.

Private companies are in business to make a profit, and it would be naive to think a corporation would provide the necessary resources for mental health services if that meant cutting the company’s bottom line. A similar experiment with the state women’s prison a few years ago was a stunning failure because the company was unable to provide adequate medical care, among other things.

The bottom line is that state government should not be outsourcing its responsibility to provide vital services to its residents.

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