Friday, February 13, 2009

San Jose Mercury News: Lawmakers debate mental health cuts

By CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press Writer
Posted: 02/12/2009 04:27:26 PM PST

CARSON CITY, Nev.—Lawmakers challenged major cuts in the state's mental health services on Thursday, saying they won't agree to reductions that would jeopardize the health and safety of Nevada communities.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has proposed closing 11 of the state's 21 rural mental health clinics, and increasing the number of patients per staff member at mental health facilities in Reno and Las Vegas.

While overall human services spending, about a third of the state's general funds, for the coming two fiscal years is up, funding for mental health services would decrease 5 percent, to $473 million.

"Several of us took vows that we would never support reductions again," said Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, referring to budget cuts to mental health in 1991. "Now we face the greatest reduction I've ever seen."

"The mentally ill cannot complain. Their families are shy about complaining," Coffin said during a joint Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee hearing. "Who is going to fight for the mentally ill? I am not going to support these cuts. I am going to follow through with my vow of 1991."

Of the 21 rural mental health clinics, two already are closed, another nine would be closed by June 30, and services would be moved to regional hubs.

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