Committee rejects cuts in mental-health services

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, led the charge Friday to restore staff in the Mental Health and Disabled Services budgets.

She said it makes no sense to be reducing support for Medication Clinics in southern and rural Nevada when the need for those services is growing.

The services' Administrator Carlos Brandenburg agreed the need is growing but described a kind of Catch-22 in which the budget is being reduced because the actual caseload, particularly in Southern Nevada, is below what was projected two years ago. He said the reason the caseload is down is because he can't find psychiatric nurses to provide the services to clients. The waiting list for services, he said, is growing.

The Medication Clinics budget provided for 7,548 clients this year. The proposed budget funds services for only 6,800 in each of the coming two years.

Buckley said that makes no sense.

"We have to readjust these numbers to fit reality," she said. "This is out of whack."

Subcommittee Chairwoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, joined Buckley saying the committee should restore the funding.

Brandenburg said he is confident he can hire to fill some of the vacancies.

"There is no doubt in my mind the need in Clark County is there," he said. "But if I don't have the staff, I'm not going to be able to serve the consumers."

He said if lawmakers provide the staff and he can hire psychiatrists, social workers and, hopefully, nurses, both of those programs will grow.

The joint Ways and Means/Senate Finance subcommittee voted to restore a total of $4.9 million to the Medication Clinics budget and consider adding even more money to reduce the waiting list for services.

"That's a big one, but I think we have to do it," Leslie said.

Leslie and Buckley said they want to take a look at other budgets in mental health services as well, including Psychiatric Ambulatory Services which is a 24 hour emergency walk-in center for people who need mental health treatment. Buckley said it makes no sense that budget is nearly doubling in Northern Nevada but static in the south. She said the need is growing at both ends of the state.

"You would think at some point, you adjust for reality," she said.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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