I-Team: Concerns Expressed Over Mental Health Task Force
By Nathan Baca, Investigative Reporter - bio | email
Dr. Dale Carrison is University Medical Center's chief of staff.
Dr. Joel Dvoskin (in the back) is the chairman of the council.
LAS VEGAS -- In light of patient dumping allegations at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, Governor Brian Sandoval appointed a council tasked with figuring out how to fix serious problems. That council meets on Wednesday for what promises to be a marathon two-day session.
However, some members on that council, who wish to remain anonymous, already believe they are doomed to fail. They fear the mental health task force will come up with a well-intentioned report that will simply go ignored by lawmakers during the budget process next year.
The council members who spoke to the I-Team say some of the members have a lack of expertise in dealing with the daily problems of mental health treatment.
When Governor Sandoval appointed the Behavioral Health Council in late January, the members were a who's who of political, business, and law enforcement leaders.
"The problem is there are no community mental health people," said Dr. Stuart Ghertner, the former director of Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services from 2006 to 2012. "There's no one locally in psychology, psychiatry, social work who's either been in the system at the provider level or is in the private sector who has experience outside the state to participate and advise this board."
Those medical experts aren't hard to find. For example, Mojave Mental Health runs one of Las Vegas' largest non-profit clinics. But no medical experts from Mojave Mental Health or the several other private or non-profit Las Vegas clinics are on the council. University Medical Center's chief of staff, Dr. Dale Carrison, reminded the council neither he nor his emergency room doctors have enough experience in mental health.
The one other doctor on the council was handpicked by the governor to lead the group. He's Dr. Joel Dvoskin from Arizona. As a forensic psychologist, he wrote a consulting report highly positive about the issues at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. Dvoskin says his mission is to hand Governor Sandoval a list of mental heath priorities.
"I don't know that we're going to likely to be saying you need to spend $200 on this and $8 million on that. I think we're going to be making recommendations on priorities," Dvoskin said.
During a phone interview, Dr. Tracey Green, the state health officer, defended the governor's picks. He says the council is highly qualified and can always call upon medical experts to answer any questions they may have.
Dr. Jonna Triggs lead Southern Nevada's Adult Mental Health Services from 2002 to 2006. By videocall, Triggs disagrees with the state about the members on the mental health council.
"I think it's crucial to have somebody that's worked on the inside. The issues that task force may want to know is going to be difficult to tease out if you don't have somebody who's worked it."
The members of the council who have contacted the I-Team with their concerns do not represent a majority. However, since the council's chairperson is stressing unity, it's uncertain whether the members can agree on any major changes to Nevada's mental health services. Their report to the governor is due this summer.