Nevada Panel Schedules Meeting on Mental Hospital

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The state Board of Examiners plans a special meeting Friday to vote on an emergency $2 million appropriation for a temporary 30-bed psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas to handle mentally ill people now crowding hospital emergency rooms.

The state Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services says the $2 million would cover costs of operating the temporary hospital at the Desert Regional Center from Aug. 1 until next February when the 2005 Legislature will be in session.

The division will then ask the Legislature for $1.3 million to operate the temporary hospital through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The request for the emergency $2 million also would have to be approved by the Legislative Interim Finance Committee, which isn't scheduled to meet until Sept. 15.

The state has provided an extra $200,000 to WestCare Nevada to provide 30 psychiatric beds and staffing to help alleviate the overcrowding in the emergency rooms. But that money is nearly exhausted.

Clark County has declared a state of emergency fearing that local hospitals would lose their ability to handle a surge of patients with non-mental emergencies.

The state also has dipped into another emergency fund for $203,370 to start rehabilitating the center that would be turned into a temporary hospital.

The Legislature, at the recommendation of Guinn, allocated $50 million more or a 32 percent increase to mental health in 2003. And construction is expected to start early next year on a new mental health hospital.