Funding fight threatens to close last comprehensive drug, mental illness triage center


A funding fight is threatening to close the last comprehensive drug and mental illness triage center in Nevada.  WestCare has already been forced to close its other two treatment facilities.

Last November, the company closed its other southern Nevada treatment facility at 4th Street and Washington, which is north of downtown.  And earlier this month, WestCare closed its facility in Reno.

The WestCare facility is meant to treat people suffering from drug abuse or mental illness, instead of taking them to hospitals or jails.
Now the facility is facing a battle over funding.  But while there’s disagreement over money, there’s no dispute it could create a vacuum in the system if it closes.

At a time where there is a hyperfocus on the drug epidemic, the main state-subsidized treatment facilities are on the chopping block.

Heidi Gustafson is the advocacy development director for the Foundation for Recovery.  Gustafson says she’s worried the whole addiction and mental illness treatment system will be turned on its head if Westcare closes its last remaining community triage center.

“People will start showing up at your doorstep looking for help, and if we don’t have the ability to provide them services, we have no choice but to turn them away,” Gustafson said.

Westcare is at odds with the state, Clark County, and the City of Las Vegas.

While Medicaid reimburses WestCare for the cost of treating any patients with Medicaid, the largest group of patients are those without insurance and those who can’t afford the treatment.

“Our goal here is to get those folks stabilized in a safe environment and get them referred out to a community partner that can best serve their needs,” said Robert Vickrey, WestCare spokesperson.

According to Vickrey, the facility operated at a nearly a $6 million loss since the summer of 2016 when the government agencies stopped paying WestCare.

“There has been some incremental help from the state, but none of the three partners have come together and totally funded the CTC for 22 months,” Vickrey said.

8 News NOW reached out to the City of Las Vegas, Clark County, and the governor’s office.  In each case, hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments were shown leading up to July 2016, but they say they all stopped paying because they are no longer in any “contract” or “agreement” with WestCare.

In January, Clark County completed an audit that concluded WestCare owes them money for treatment that was actually covered by Medicaid.

WestCare offered to repay some of what the county requested, but it’s about $400,000 short of what county auditors calculated.

“There have been some questions about how the funds were used, and WestCare has sought to correct that, but in no case did we seek to double-bill any of the funding entities with Medicaid dollars,” said Vickrey.

“WestCare is aware of the statement made in the April 23rd Las Vegas Review-Journal article titled ‘Treatment Clinic Imperilled: Funding Dispute Ensnares LV Facility for Addicts,'” and “WestCare takes issue with the use of the term ‘double-dipping’ by the Governor’s staff but will continue to work with the Governor, local leaders and the hospitals to find a common ground, with the hopes of avoiding shutting down WestCare’s Nevada operations.”

The Review-Journal story also cites a possible May closure of the facility near 4th Street and Washington. WestCare declined to say when that would happen but it did say its likely if no additional funding comes in.

To read the full Clark County audit of WestCare go here.

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