LAS VEGAS -- The governor's mental health council is meeting to try and find a way to fix Nevada's troubled mental health system.
Currently, Nevada is getting shortchanged in federal grant money for housing the homeless and mentally ill because federal housing authorities still use population figures from the 1960s to calculate whether Las Vegas gets grant dollars. Clark County's efforts to get federal officials into the 21st century is still meeting resistance.
"There's a finite pool of dollars. That would mean displacing dollars from another community to bring here. Even though we've proven we're a high performance community with those dollars, it really is an uphill battle but one we've been very vocal about," said Tim Burch, director of Clark County Social Services.
Las Vegas ranks third nationwide in the number of homeless people for a city it's size and as the mental health council heard Thursday, a large number of those homeless are mentally ill. The latest estimate is that 2,200 Las Vegans have no home or shelter at all. That places Las Vegas just below New York and Los Angeles in its number of homeless people. Yet Las Vegas gets nowhere near the top dollars in help from the federal housing department. Changing that funding formula could require congressional action which may not be likely.
"It's that push and pull on the revenue side," said state Senator Debbie Smith who said she is ready to tackle the issue.
"I'm ready because you can't have this discussion we're having here without talking about additional revenue in my mind."
Smith is on the panel and leads the senate finance committee. When the governor comes up with his budget this fall, it will be up to Smith to come up with any additional money for mental health. The council will meet again March 24 and 25.
It is expected to come up with a list of mental health priorities this summer.