Friday, Oct. 17, 2003 | 9:22 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Steve Kanigher's article in Sunday's paper accurately described the problems our community faces in providing care for the mentally ill. The employees of the Nevada Adult Mental Health Department do a wonderful job with woefully limited resources.
One out of every 100 people suffers from schizophrenia alone, not to mention the people who suffer from the myriad other mental illnesses. Meanwhile, our state has 4.5 publicly funded beds per 100,000 residents. Individuals suffering from mental illness must have support, monitoring and attention from their family and community. Drugs for schizophrenia can cost approximately $500 a month, depending on the patient. Most mentally ill people do not have health insurance and are not even aware that the state does provide limited assistance to them.
Without help from the state, mentally ill people simply could not afford to take the necessary drugs to keep them from being delusional and unable to differentiate unacceptable behavior from acceptable behavior. Even with health insurance, the average policy puts a limit on mental health coverage that does not begin to cover the expenses for a family.
I would rather pay more in taxes if money was allocated to adequately fund our mental health programs. By helping the mentally ill, we keep them from clogging emergency rooms and jails where they do not belong and we help them to function in the community.
A reading of Mr. Kanigher's article should clearly eliminate the need for the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee to hold four more hearings before it issues recommendations to the governor on mental health funding. There is ample evidence to enable the committee members to immediately recognize the need.