I-Team: NV Health Chief Outlines Fixes to Mental Health System - 8 News NOW

I-Team: NV Health Chief Outlines Fixes to Mental Health System

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LAS VEGAS-- The two people most responsible for fixing problems with the Nevada's mental health care system are talking about how they are going to go about it.

Both the governor and the health department chief are talking about the gaps in the states' mental health care system.

"Patient dumping" and "Greyhound therapy" are two phrases highlighting the accusations surrounding Las Vegas' Rawson-Neal Psychiatrist Hospital.

Both the governor and the state's health chief say they're holding those responsible accountable, but the ideas to fix coverage gaps long term remain hard to turn into reality.

Nevada's mental health system is long known to have systemic problems with patient care and funding, but it gained even more scrutiny as state leaders reacted to allegations that Rawson-Neal state hospital sent mentally ill people with criminal backgrounds onto Greyhound buses to other states.

"When I learned about that issue, something that had occurred a couple of years ago, I was appalled. It was unacceptable and we're going to get to the bottom of it and ensure it doesn't happen again. As a parent, it concerns me there was a sexual offender out in the community," Gov. Brian Sandoval said.

Nevada used to send 30 to 50 patients a month on Greyhound buses to their home states.

Some patients were sent to California with no family or help at their destination. Former patient James Brown is suing the state after he says he was shipped to Sacramento, even though he has no family or friends there.

Now, Nevada either sends chaperones or confirms there is a support network when a patient leaves the state.

"The policy now is, we don't participate in providing transportation unless a family member makes the arrangements, comes and gets them, pays for the transportation themselves. In about 30 cases that has occurred since April 20," Nevada Health Director Mike Wilden said.

However, Las Vegas' emergency rooms are now filled with the mentally ill who can't find beds at the state hospital and are no longer being quickly bused to the state they came from.

"It got as high as 160 waiting a few months ago. It is running around 110 today," Wilden said.

It is going to take many more state hospital beds and employees to care for those mentally ill.

The governor's new mental health task force will explore funding options to fix this problem, but any fix they come up with won't come up for a vote for more than year.

Health Director Wilden says he expects at least three state employees to face a review of their medical credentials based on new accusations of improperly discharging patients.

Those employees may also face punishment, including losing their jobs, within weeks.

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