Question: What is the state government doing to keep up with the need for more mental-health facilities in Nevada?
We are now about a year removed from the mental health crisis that hit Southern Nevada last summer, and in that time I believe the state of Nevada has made great progress in remedying the problem. As many Southern Nevadans remember, in July 2004 Clark County Manager Thom Reilly proclaimed a state of emergency due to mental health patients overcrowding hospital emergency rooms. Southern Nevadans were very concerned about the situation. I am pleased to report that one year later, due to several important initiatives, we are winning the battle of mental health care in the country’s fastest-growing state.
During my six years as governor of Nevada, I have made mental health and human resources one of my top priorities. We have managed to emerge from a period of severe recessionary cost-cutting in the early 1990s to where we can now meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens through larger human resources budgets, better programs, and perhaps most importantly, new facilities to meet the ever-increasing needs of our people. Average funding levels for human resources in the state of Nevada has increased by about 15 percent per year during my six years as governor. My budget for the 2005-2007 biennium represents the largest investment the state of Nevada has ever made in this area, totaling more than $4.7 billion, at an increase of almost 50 percent in general fund spending over the previous biennium.
Let me cite just a couple of quick examples that have helped make a difference in the past year. In February 2005, I participated in an important groundbreaking ceremony for the new 150-bed psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas. That day, Nevada moved one step closer to providing much-needed mental health treatment in Southern Nevada. The new $32 million public psychiatric hospital, which is scheduled to open in early 2006, is being built near the current campus of Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services on the corner of Oakey and Jones Boulevards. The facility will help Clark County provide state-of-the-art psychiatric care for individuals suffering from mental illness, and will greatly curtail the current demand being made on Las Vegas Valley emergency rooms.
Another project worth noting is the Casa Grande Re-Entry Facility, which held its groundbreaking ceremony in November 2004 in Las Vegas. Casa Grande, a comprehensive, community-based residential facility, will assist Department of Corrections offenders as they re-enter mainstream society. It will provide a cost-effective and program-intensive alternative to traditional prison custody. The facility, which is expected to be completed this summer, will lower the number of repeat and non-violent offenders, through the strategic use of programs such as counseling, education, employment, financial management, family re-unification and medical attention.
These new facilities represent an unprecedented overall commitment to human resources – one that the state of Nevada has clearly needed. I’ve always believed that in order to do good business in Nevada, a substantial investment – in human resources, in education, in quality of life – has to be made by its leaders and its government. By improving our human services offerings, we are keeping our citizens healthy and safe, and our state strong. And, we are ensuring that our state is prepared to meet the dynamic challenges of our growing population. I am very proud of the work of the past six years, which has been in many ways one of the most progressive eras in the history of our state – an era in which a direct and positive impact has been made on the health, safety and well-being of our citizens.