Nevada gov authorizes more funds to stem Vegas health crisis | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada gov authorizes more funds to stem Vegas health crisis

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – Gov. Kenny Guinn has authorized an additional $289,300 to help Clark County deal with a public health emergency prompted by overcrowded emergency rooms.

The allocation is the third in as many weeks since Clark County officials declared the health emergency after a high number of mentally ill patients overwhelmed area emergency rooms.

The first two allocations of $100,000 each went to WestCare, a nonprofit agency that specializes in substance abuse treatment. The agency has been temporarily housing mentally ill patients to ease the overcrowding situation.

The new allocation will pay for the refurbishment of an interim facility to replace Westcare’s temporary operation. The nonprofit will also receive a portion of the money.

“We’ve ordered WestCare to stop taking new admissions and use the money to wind down its operation in the next several days,” said Michael Willden, state director of Human Resources.

Thirty-three patients were at the Westcare facility late Friday.

The interim facility, called the Desert Regional Center, currently houses developmentally challenged residents. But about half of the building is vacant because of a push to place more of the residents in group homes.

State officials say they hope the facility will be in operation for about 18 months until a new 150-bed state psychiatric hospital opens.

The portion of the center that would be used for the mentally ill will need to be equipped with Plexiglas, a specialized fire alarm system and certain monitoring devices, said Carlos Brandenburg, the state’s administrator for the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services.

State officials will have to appeal to the legislative Interim Finance Committee for money to staff and operate the temporary facility until at least June 2005, the end of the fiscal year.

Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com