Nevada officials approve $27 million for inmate mental health care – The Nevada Independent

Nevada lawmakers approved more than $27 million in coronavirus relief funds toward efforts to improve care for criminal defendants awaiting trial who need mental health treatment, as the state faces ongoing investigation into delays in providing care.

The funding, approved Wednesday, aims to increase the number of patients the state can treat by hiring contractors and renovating a wing of the Las Vegas mental health facility. Funding will also go toward a two-year program that will help patients in Clark and Washoe counties by providing social skills training and various types of therapy.

The money builds on an emergency $5.7 million approval from Gov. Joe Lombardo last month to reassign patients receiving inpatient care at the Las Vegas mental health facility to nursing facilities, freeing up space to provide so-called forensic care for defendants.

The funding influx comes nearly four months after the Nevada Supreme Court upheld a $500 daily fine against the Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) for each day care was delayed. defendant mentally incompetent. The department must transfer inmates for treatment within seven days of receiving the court order.

As of mid-November, the average wait time this year was 132 days, a three-day increase from last year, and there were more than 140 defendants awaiting treatment, according to a DPBH report. DPBH also paid a $101,000 fine in mid-November.

State and county officials testified Wednesday that efforts are needed to alleviate a longstanding problem. Members of the Interim Finance Committee, a group of lawmakers who make state spending decisions while the Legislature is out of session, asked officials how they plan to continue certain programs after the funding runs out and how they plan to fill vacant positions, but unanimously approve funding .

The DPBH also proposed to allocate approximately $8 million to hire 83 full-time employees for forensic treatment. But recently released guidelines from the US Treasury prohibit the state from using American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds past 2024 for personnel costs unrelated to ARP compliance. This does not apply to contractors, so DPBH plans to determine if those 83 positions can be converted to contract positions.

This is the opportunity for the current Administration and Legislature to meaningfully address this issue and lift Nevada out of the struggle we have been through for so many years. These initiatives are helping the state move away from temporary solutions and build a system that is sustainable, said a DPBH report in November.

Wednesday’s funding approval includes $14.9 million toward a program to provide care for 60 defendants at a time in Clark County and 30 patients at a time in Washoe County. The program will not provide rehabilitation that restores competency to criminal defendants deemed unfit to stand trial but will instead focus on social skills training, mental illness guidance and medications and art and recreational therapy.

The program follows a similar framework as other Jail-Based Mental Health Programs (JBP), which have been found to reduce recidivism rates and time spent in prisons even as other states, including Florida , has programs with more staff and broader coverage than Nevada’s proposal. .

This program will complement our inpatient rehabilitation treatment services and help the community manage the demand for inpatient forensic services, DPBH Administrator Cody Phinney said Wednesday.

State public health officials originally asked lawmakers to approve the program in October. But IFC members voted to table the proposal until December because the proposal lacked specific details. According to the plan presented to lawmakers on Wednesday, the DPBH will develop a process for screening defendants seeking admission to the program, as well as provide mid-year and year-end reports and conduct personal that site visit.

Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) voted in favor of the measure but remained critical of the information provided.

“The information that I didn’t know in October, I still don’t really understand right now,” Neal said. The intelligence you’re dealing with, the type of individual you’re managing and the level of people you need to run this program inside the prison.

Lawmakers also approved about $8 million for renovations and operating costs for Building 3A of the Las Vegas facility on West Charleston Boulevard operated by Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services. The renovations, which include interior repairs, windows and roofing, will allow the state to increase its forensic bed capacity.

The remaining $4.9 million in funding approved Wednesday will go toward hiring contractors to provide inpatient and outpatient mental health care. The DPBH also has plans to build an additional psychiatric facility and seek additional funding from the Legislature to help forensic patients.

However, funding does not guarantee results. In October, lawmakers acting at the request of the DPBH ended a $55 million project that would have added 45 psychiatric beds and 115 staff members to the Las Vegas Detention Center. The project faces construction and design delays, according to meeting documents from October.

Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) said in October that the cancellation of the projects was a major blow because of the urgent need for mental health care for inmates.

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