Lawmakers want plan for rural mental health clinics | NevadaAppeal.com

Lawmakers want plan for rural mental health clinics

AMANDA FEHD
Associated Press Writer
Carlos Brandenburg, Ph.D., right, administrator for the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, testifies at a Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Joint Subcommittee on Human Services at the Nevada State Legislature on Thursday. Lawmakers told officials for Nevada's rural mental health clinics on Thursday to come up with a plan on how to recruit and retain workers after hearing the department has a 45 to 60 percent turnover rate. Brad Horn/ Nevada Appeal
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Lawmakers told officials for Nevada’s rural mental health clinics on Thursday to come up with a plan on how to recruit and retain workers after hearing the department has a 45 to 60 percent turnover rate.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said during a joint Senate-Assembly budget committee meeting that financial incentives don’t seem to be working, and those who live in urban areas “don’t want to accustom themselves to living the rural life.”

Raggio told Michael Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, to come up with a plan to enhance recruiting.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said it doesn’t make sense to take away positions that are needed, adding, “What we are missing is a plan to meet rural mental health needs.”

Carlos Brandenburg, administrator for the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, said his division had a plan that includes financial incentives – which were not included in Gov. Jim Gibbons’ budget.

The department may have to eliminate 29 vacant positions in rural Nevada clinics because it didn’t get funding from Gibbons’ new budget to recruit and retain skilled staff.

The open positions dilute caseload numbers and make it harder to justify funding.

The incentives included a $2,400 signing bonus, a 5 percent pay differential for rural area workers and accelerated retirement that would offer six years of retirement for five years of service.

The incentives, which have a price tag of $2 million over two years for all rural mental health workers, are based on similar programs already offered to police and teachers in rural areas.

Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, appeared before the committee to push for changes. Rhoads lobbied for his own legislation for $3.5 million over two years for incentives, and Carpenter asked the committee to safeguard the positions.

“Give us a chance to recruit those people so we can have better services,” he said.