Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2014

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Health:

State board approves move it hopes will expedite diagnosis, handling of mentally ill patients in ERs

The influx of patients to Las Vegas emergency rooms should be reduced under a plan approved by the Nevada Board of Examiners today.

Dr. Tracey Green, the state's chief medical officer, told the board there are sometimes 100 patients seeking psychiatric help waiting to be diagnosed and admitted to the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital.

The board approved her request to hire three psychiatrists to be stationed in emergency rooms to determine if a patient needs to be admitted to the hospital or can be released. These psychiatrists formerly worked for the state but left and now are part of a group called Focus Mental Health Solutions. They will be paid $160 an hour under a two-year contract.

"Hopefully we can reduce the time spent in the emergency rooms," Green said.

She said many patients can be examined by the psychiatrists and, if it is determined they require psychiatric help, be sent for treatment at Rawson-Neal. But others with drinking or drug problems can be released without going to the mental health hospital.

Hospitals in Clark County have complained that patients with possible mental illnesses sometimes have to wait more than 24 hours in emergency rooms before they are sent to Rawson-Neal or are released. And evaluations by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the Joint Commission on Accreditation have cited needed improvements to mental health treatment services in Clark County.

The board also approved a $367,500 contact with KCA Architecture of Las Vegas for renovations to Building 3 at Rawson-Neal, which will provide more treatment space.

In other action, the board:

• Approved a $1.69 million settlement with the Internal Revenue Service for failure to pay Medicare premiums to the government for elected officials and members of boards and commissions for a four-year period. The state had not made the payments for 27 years but negotiated with the IRS to contribute the payments for 2010-2013. The error was discovered in an internal audit of the state's payroll system.

• Approved a $1.8 million contract with Van Woert Bigotti Architects of Reno to design a 90-bed home for veterans in Northern Nevada on the campus of the Dini-Townsend mental hospital in Reno. There is a state veterans' home in Boulder City.

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