Human services budget to rise $1.2B
Mike Willden, head of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, told legislative money committees Thursday that his total budget proposal has increased $1.2 billion — nearly all of it federal funding — to $7.4 billion for the coming biennium.By comparison, the state General Fund portion of the department’s budget plan, as proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, is up just $136 million from the current budget to just over $2 billion for the next two fiscal years.Willden said the overall HHS spending plan amounts to about $10 million in spending every day, “and we take that trust seriously.”Primarily because of the Affordable Care Act, he said, Nevada’s uninsured population should be cut in half by the end of the biennium. He said it is currently 23 percent — second worst in the nation after Texas. It is projected to drop to 10 percent.John Sasser of Washoe Legal Services said that is “a huge help,” adding, “That’s a tremendous difference in helping people and we’re delighted the governor made that decision.” Willden said the biggest increase is in Medicaid funding. Because the federal matching formula is based on per-capita income and Nevada’s is falling, the percentage of Medicaid the federal government will cover rises from 58 percent this year to 63.5 percent in 2015, generating millions to the state.He said that and expanded eligibility under the Affordable Care Act will make Medicaid available to an additional 78,000 Nevadans. He said the ACA mandate for health insurance will add another 68,000 people. The result: The program’s caseload is expected to increase from 313,000 today to 490,000 people by the end of fiscal 2015. The HHS budget proposes several major structural changes, Willden told state lawmakers at a budget hearing being held in advance of the upcoming 2013 session. The changes combine public health and mental health into a single division to cover community, clinical and other services under one administrator.In addition, the Aging and Disability Services Division would pick up control of Desert Regional, Sierra Regional and the Rural Regional centers, Family Preservation and Early Intervention. Those services are now scattered over three divisions. That division also would manage Senior Rx and Disability Rx, the Long Term Ombudsman program, Family Preservation program and Home and Community Based Services as well as autism treatment and the Independent Living Program.A $650,000 annual increase in General Fund money is included for the youth alternative placement budget to support China Spring and Aurora Pines Youth Camps in Douglas County. That increase would reduce the assessments owed those camps by all 16 counties other than Clark. For southern Nevada, the Summit View Correctional Center’s 96-bed facility would reopen in October.Nevada Check-Up would get a total of $24.3 million to handle expanded caseload over the biennium, and the budget includes rate increases for hospices, federally qualified health centers and other managed-care and primary physicians.The Child and Family Services Division would see block grant funding of $14.25 million a year in Washoe and $42.75 million a year in Clark County. There also is added funding for growth in the adoption caseload for Clark and Washoe. That growth is projected at about 11 percent in each of the major counties.All HHS programs will be extensively reviewed during the upcoming legislative session since the department accounts for nearly 38 percent of the total state budget.