Rural and mental health care issues to come before 2001 Legislature

LAS VEGAS - A legislative study committee wants the 2001 Legislature to improve health care in rural Nevada to avert the prospect of a medical or mental health crisis.

''It's going to take money and people,'' said the committee chairwoman, Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto, D-Las Vegas. ''What we see is a situation that goes on and on and on and we finally respond when it becomes an emergency. So we're going to do something.''

In addition to the rural health care proposals, Sen. Raymond Rawson, R-Las Vegas, also on the panel, said the 2001 Legislature should work on ways to ease hospital emergency rooms overcrowding.

Other recommendations include an emergency medical services training academy in Elko and a physician assistant training program, said Caroline Ford, assistant dean of the state Office of Rural Health.

The proposals also include a ''telemedicine network'' within the state's rural mental health clinics. Ford said the network would link nurse practitioners in outlying areas with physicians and medical facilities to help deal with routine and emergency medical cases.

If passed, the legislation also would expand the Nevada Health Service Corps loan program, set up to help ease a critical shortage of emergency medical services personnel, dentists, dental hygienists and nurses.

The proposed legislation also calls for financing capital improvements and raising Medicaid reimbursements for rural health care providers.

Ford said she hopes the The Frontier and Rural Health Care Improvement Act of 2001 also will provide rural communities with a vehicle to seek funding and programs for health care from future legislature sessions.

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