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Advocacy Alert: Behavioral Health Care Reform Input Needed

The Legislative Committee on Health Care begins holding interim meetings on Wednesday, November 20, 2019, at 9 am.  You can attend in-person or watch the hearing through online streaming.  Both options have instructions on this page:

You can also review the League of Women Voters of Nevada Guide to Advocacy During the Interim, which provides information for watching hearing recordings, here:

Item VIII on the Health Care Committee agenda focuses on the Behavioral Health Crisis Response in Nevada (see below under Resources).  The League of Women Voters of Nevada has prioritized addressing the deficiencies in Nevada’s mental and behavioral health care system and we are emphasizing advocacy during this interim legislative session.  So, this Wednesday we’ll have our first opportunity to start interim engagement on one of our priorities.

Stephanie Woodard, Psy.D., Senior Advisor on Behavioral Health, and Dawn Yohey, Clinical Program Planner will review the state of behavioral health care in Nevada for the Committee on Health Care, starting with why Nevada ranks 51st in the Mental Health America 2020 report.  In sum, if there is a problem with mental and behavioral health care, we have that problem in Nevada. You can read more here:

In 2019 we know that behavioral and mental health issues can start early in life, yet Nevada suffers severe shortages of behavioral health services and providers for children and their families.  And our school systems struggle to offer behavioral health support in the education setting, where it is easier to engage with children and their families.

LWVN Behavioral Health Workforce Development

We are spending millions of dollars cycling adults who need mental health treatment through our emergency rooms with few if any positive results.  We are sending children out of state, away from their families, for behavioral health treatment not available in Nevada.

We expect our first-responders to aid adults who have lost family support due to the overwhelming burden we place on families as they struggle to support sons, daughters, wives, and husbands suffering from diseases of the brain that are no less real than diseases of other body systems.

We are in a crisis because it is a heavy lift to create a new behavioral and mental health system that produces better results from scratch, yet if we continue on the current path our behavioral and mental health problems will only get worse.  We will waste millions of dollars, destroy thousands of lives, and achieve worsening results.  

Improvements in education outcomes, reductions in homelessness, and drops in incarceration rates will be out of reach until we dedicate ourselves to creating a better mental and behavioral health care system.

Anyone who thinks we are somehow saving money by not funding open access to behavioral and mental health care should look at the amounts we are spending on Legal 2000 medical holds, on expecting public safety officers to double a mental health intake officers, and on warehousing the mentally ill in our jails and prisons.

Treatment Advocacy Center

If you can attend the November 20th Legislative Health Care Committee hearing, please consider speaking during the public comment period at the beginning or end of the meeting in support of Dr. Woodard’s efforts to create a rationale and responsive behavioral and mental health care system. 

  • We need workforce development to address our behavioral health professional shortages.
  • We need dedicated analysists who can construct an integrated behavioral health care system that produces better outcomes.
  • We need to recognize and rectify the fact that our current system has imposed homelessness and incarceration on community members who instead need access to medical treatment.
  • We need to admit that our behavioral and mental health crisis is also a civil rights crisis.

Mental Health Implications for Policing Practices and the Administration of Justice

If you cannot attend the hearing, please consider submitted comments to the Health Care Committee:


Presentation Regarding Behavioral Health Crisis Response in Nevada

The Medicaid IMD Exclusion and Mental Illness Discrimination

The Medicaid IMD Exclusion: An Overview and Opportunities for Reform

LWVSN Annual Planning Meeting 2019

At the League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada annual planning meeting on August 3, 2019, we discussed the intersection between mental health care, education policy, addressing homelessness, and criminal justice reform.   We arrived at the need to approach solutions through this intersection based on the work of the LWVSN Behavioral and Mental Health Committee. 

Over the past two years, the committee has been studying how to improve Nevada’s behavioral and mental health systems. Through this investigation we’ve heard from many community groups and state agency representatives and we’ve concluded: We cannot fully address the vast deficiencies in Nevada’s mental and behavioral health systems in isolation from other vitally important social issues.

In response to these and other findings, the League of Women Voters of Nevada adopted an Advocacy During the Interim program at the July 20th state convention to fully engage our members and community partners in advocacy before the next legislative session.  But because most Nevadans are unaware that legislative committees meet during the interim to hear testimony, review reports and data, and work on recommendations for the next legislative session, we will be putting out a guide for engagement.  

The interim committee structure includes all the components needed to help us craft our legislative agenda for the 2021 session, including posted agenda, public comment opportunities, and in-person, live-streaming, and archived recordings as viewing options.

If you are interested in joining in our interim advocacy efforts, please review the Advocacy During the Interim description on our blog and use the embedded Google Form to sign-up

Our planning meeting presenters included attorney and ACLU board member Lisa Rasmussen, who represents clients with mental health needs.  Because Nevada suffers from a severe shortage of mental health providers and treatment options, avenues for early interventions and preventative care are virtually absent, so Lisa spoke to us about how afflicted individuals have been pulled into the criminal justice system.  It was heartbreaking to hear about our fellow Nevadans being tracked into the criminal justice system; if any of these community members were being tracked into prison due to a cancer diagnosis we’d be wildly outraged over the inhumanity.  Read more about the ACLU Smart Justice program here:

We also heard from Judge Michael Villani and Public Defender Erika Ballou from the Eighth Judicial District Court Jury Improvement Committee who provided information about the importance of jury service.  Every accused community member deserves a jury of their peers, so we must answer our jury summons and help our friends and neighbors understand the purpose of the constitutional right to have a jury hear and judge evidence presented to show guilt of a crime. Read more here:

And finally, we heard from Emily Paulsen from the Nevada Homeless Alliance about the organization’s efforts to address homelessness as a constellation of compounding issues.  The Alliance understands that mental illness can be both a cause and symptom of homelessness, and similarly, addiction can be both a cause and symptom of mental illness.  Consequently, if we hope to address homelessness, we must simultaneously address mental health care, addiction, job training, and the availability of affordable housing.  Read more here:


Working together to make things better.