Mentally Ill Patients Waitlisted for Long-Term Care - 8 News NOW

Mentally Ill Patients Waitlisted for Long-Term Care

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Susan Martin and her son, Michael. Susan Martin and her son, Michael.

LAS VEGAS -- Valley emergency rooms remain overcrowded with patients diagnosed as mentally ill and who fill up beds meant for physically sick or injured people.

On Tuesday, University Medical Center saw 150 mentally disabled patients in its emergency room.

Doctors are forced to send people with behavioral issues back out onto the streets.

On Wednesday, mental health leaders told state lawmakers the problem isn't going away and mentally ill patients are on waiting lists all over the valley to get into long-term care facilities.

Desert Regional Center is among those facilities that grapples with severe overcrowding and understaffing.

The center is asking for more funding from the state to fix the problem.


Three years ago, Max Goldberg's life changed when his mother, Alice, enrolled him in a program designed to help those with special needs.

"They have to have the day program for these kids," Alice Goldberg said.

As the fellow parent of a special needs adult, Susan Martin said she knows the importance of one-on-one attention from workers in mental health facilities.

"The ratio of staff to the individual is very important," Martin said.

Her son, Michael, is a patient at Desert Regional Center, which is asking for 11 additional workers.

The facility is serving an additional 600 patients without any extra staff.


On Wednesday, Nevada Health and Human Services told lawmakers Desert Regional is growing at a faster rate than other regional facilities and faces bigger problems from patients, including sexual predatory behavior, aggression and suicide.

"What they are voting to support really makes a difference in people's lives," Easter Seals Nevada CEO Brian Patchett said.

Easter Seals is a nonprofit that helps people with mental and physical disabilities.

Patchett said an increasing number of patients are waiting to get into long-term care, and without enough workers, the state is bound to run into problems.

"The waitlist is a top problem," he said. "It's just a matter of making sure quality services are being delivered throughout the system."

With patients on waiting lists across the state, many mentally ill end up on valley streets or in hospital emergency rooms, where they're often re-released, unable to get the care or access to medication they need.

Wednesday was just the first start of the budget process for Desert Regional Center and other mental health facilities across the state.

Nevada lawmakers still must decide what money goes where and what jobs it should fund.

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