The government at national, state and local levels are taking various measures to fight the growing problem of mental illnesses in the United States. However, an issue bigger than this is not getting access to mental health care services.
According to the Mental Health America (MHA), in 2014, over half of American adults suffering from mental illness did not receive treatment. Authorities are trying various means to expand the health care services so that more and more people can get treatment at the right time.
At such a critical juncture, Nevada has decided to cut its budget for mental health services for 2017-19, citing fewer people are seeking such services. On the other hand, legislators in the state are proffering bills that would bring the state’s mental health administration out of the dark ages.
Bill 39-133, sponsored by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health was drafted to update the definition of “mental illness” in Nevada statutes, in line with the definitions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition –– “allowing the law to stay current with the science.”
Bill 54-410, drafted by the Legislative Committee on Health Care, restructures and facilitates licensing of mental health professionals. Assemblyman James Oscarson said that legislators have endured complaints for quite some time about the drawn-out and antiquated process for out-of-state and new applicants to become Nevada-licensed mental health clinicians.
Bill 14-688 was submitted by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary in December 2016 to practically assist the state criminal record repository to share information with local law enforcement. According to the Bill, individuals “adjudicated as mentally ill or (having) been committed to any mental health facility” would be barred from possessing firearms. It would also help police seek out mental health professionals, expediently, to assist with situations.
Falling demand for services
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval’s proposed 2017-19 budget outlines significant budget and job cuts as his team said that fewer people were seeking mental health services.
In Southern Nevada, the state general fund for Adult Mental Health Services would come down from $93 million to $83 million in the new spending plan. While 38 staff would be laid-off.
Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services budget would decrease from $32 million to $26 million with 56 layoffs.
But the changes are not all dismal. Rural-area mental health programs will increase from $14 million to $15.5 million in allocation.
Chief of Staff Mike Willden said nearly all the layoffs were in the medication field as fewer prescriptions were being written by state medical staff. Legislators pointed to a 33 percent decline in outpatient clinic mental health services between June 2013 and June 2016. Willden said the state budget spending was being neutralized by an increase in Medicaid cases.
Understanding reduction in number of prescriptions
While trying to understand why fewer prescriptions were being written for mental health problems, few points came up.
One reason is thought to be an increase in Medicaid cases that could point to fewer Nevada residents or passers-through having health insurance through employers.
Another reason could be due that Nevada is considered to be a transient state with a high attrition in population. This means that people come and leave and few get to stay long-term. Additionally, people may be returning to their home state when they fall sick.
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About the author
Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a Sovereign Health writer and her intriguing storytelling has been featured with Sovereign Health, KPBS TV/FM, FOX5 News in San Diego and NPR. Her illustrative and relatable approach to digital and broadcast news bridges businesses and consumers, news and community. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at email@example.com.