The Nevada Capitol
The Interim Finance Committee on Wednesday approved millions of dollars to expand mental health and public health programs in Nevada.
The vote was unanimous to use American Rescue Plan Act funding to provide what all agreed is critically-needed services, especially for children ranging from autism and ADHD to respite relief for parents dealing with children who have chronic mental health conditions.
Altogether, IFC approved $221 million in federal funding. That includes nearly $45 million to expand children’s mental health programs and $171 million in public health funding.
Some $40 million will go to build a new state public health laboratory at UNR and $30 million for another new lab in Southern Nevada.
The UNLV School of Medicine will get $40 million to provide community services.
The programs focused on children include $15 million for wrap-around coordination, $5 million to support programs allowing children to safely remain in the home while receiving care and $3.4 million to expand the Mobile Crisis Response Teams in schools in Washoe and Clark counties and state Education Department.
Other efforts include funding scholarship programs at Nevada community colleges and $15 million in added rental assistance, $10 million to launch the eviction diversion program in Las Vegas. They also agreed to put $8.5 million into efforts to reduce wait lists for children with autism and $12.7 million to implement the new unemployment insurance computer system.
Some members questioned what happens to those programs once the federal cash has been spent.
Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said he was “very supportive” of the programs but that funding them with one-shot money was creating a hole in future budgets that would have to be filled to continue the programs.
Dr. Robin Titus, the Assembly minority leader, questioned whether Nevada can even find the health professionals to fill the more than 45 new positions to implement the programs at the state level.
She also said the Medicaid reimbursement rate is a critical factor because medical providers won’t provide services if they’re losing money by doing so.
Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka said all of the new and expanded programs are “going to take years to build.”
They were told that Gov. Steve Sisolak has committed to funding those services in his legislative budget by Dr. Cindy Pitlock, head of Nevada’s Division of Child and Family Services.
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, said she will commit to finding the money to make the expansions permanent.
Describing child mental health as an acute need, she said the state cannot wait until the end of the next legislative session.
Lawmakers were told it will cost about $28 million a year to continue the services beyond 2025, two thirds from Medicaid and the rest from Nevada’s General Fund.
Pitlock said some of the programs are services Nevada has never been able to offer before.
“To not support this would be ridiculous,” said Goicoechea.
The unanimous vote came after three hours of public comment, mostly from parents and grandparents who have had to wait a year or more to get their children into programs that can effectively treat them and that, too often, they had to go out of state to find help.
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