Thursday, August 1, 2013

Saving Face v. Saving Lives

Last week, we checked in on the very critical condition of Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. The hospital was losing federal accreditation, and state mental health officials seemed resigned to accepting this fate. However, they've also been insisting that Rawson-Neal truly is cleaning up its act.

Ralston recently penned a blog on the forlorn state of Nevada mental health care. He spread blame all over the place. But ultimately, he did acknowledge these facts.

►You have heard the figure of $80 million being cut from the already spare mental health budget since 2007. That’s real. The number actually is $498.3 million, with a 19 percent reduction in force (364 positions).

►In 2009, 94 positions were eliminated at Rawson-Neal. In the 2010 special session, one of two satellite inpatient facilities in Southern Nevada was shuttered. In 2011, the other one was shut down, leaving Rawson-Neal as the only state-operated inpatient facility in the state. (All of this came amid declines in funding for medications and capital projects, too.)

►If you include all the money, including federal dollars, Southern Nevada Asdult Mental Health Services spent $173 million in the 2010-2011 biennium -- $13 million more than in the fiscal year just ending. Overall state mental health spending declined by about $34 million during the same period. (The good news: It is slated to increase by close to $30 million, if the administration request is approved, in the next biennium.)

You know what makes this sad story even sadder? That $30 million raise for mental health doesn't even reach 2009 levels. And Rawson-Neal was likely busing patients out of state then.

Last week, The Sacramento Bee (the paper that broke this scandal) released an editorial commenting on the sorry state of Nevada mental health care. Oh, and the paper had some choice words for Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Denial) and the Nevada Legislature.

As the story unfolded, Sandoval made much of Rawson-Neal's accreditation, proclaiming in April that "Rawson-Neal is safe, modern, and has a five-star accreditation."

However, Rawson-Neal received that accreditation in 2010, at a time when the hospital routinely bused patients. That raises questions about whether inspectors studied discharge plans or inquired what became of patients who were sent on their way with bus tickets and a few bottles of Ensure.

The Bee's Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese found eight former patients. Seven had no one waiting for them at bus depots when they arrived, and none had discharge treatment plans. One patient never made it to his destination. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Sandoval, Nevada's Legislature, and voters should be haunted by the question of what became of the other 1,492 patients. If Sandoval is uninterested in reconciliation, Democrats who control the Legislature should exercise oversight authority to determine the patients' fate.

This is the real tragedy. Whatever happened to those 1,492 other patients? Where did they go? Where are they now? And why are our state's "leaders" only trying to save face now?

Here's the problem. They're trying to save face. How about saving lives? That actually would have saved us all this money and time as well. That's the glaring irony of being penny wise and pound foolish.

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