Undercurrent

Legislative panel preps mental health bills for 2023 session

By: - August 19, 2022 6:00 am

“We do have, unfortunately, very low rates of medically assisted treatment being offered" in Nevada, a state official told lawmakers. (Photo by Jeff Hendricks on Unsplash)

State lawmakers Thursday signed off on several behavioral and mental health initiatives they want to see prepped as legislation for next year’s legislative session.

The bill draft requests (BDRs) include a proposal to require health care providers who are authorized to diagnose an opioid use disorder to offer information on evidence-based treatment options, and better assure that providers who receive state and federal money for substance use treatment to prioritize at-risk populations.

The legislative panel will also ask the Legislative Counsel Bureau to draft a bill requiring medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to be used in state jails and prisons. The FDA approved method uses medication and counseling and behavioral therapy to help those struggling with substance use, prevent overdoses and sustain recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

“We do have, unfortunately, very low rates of medically assisted treatment being offered” in Nevada, Stephanie Woodard, senior advisory on behavioral health for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, told the legislative Interim Committee on Health and Human Services. “Very rarely are they aware they have medically assisted treatment available to them.” 

Several different regional Behavioral Health Policy Boards, including those from Clark County and Douglas County, identified supportive housing for those with behavioral health needs as major policy priorities for the upcoming session. Other BDRs that progressed Thursday include supportive housing for those who are homeless and those who have severe mental health needs with a focus on people under 25 years old.  

For homeless youth, policies that aim to reduce barriers to get documents were introduced like waiving the cost of state ids, and requiring counties with a population over 100,000  or more – Clark and Washoe – to develop plans on addressing homeless youth and at-risk foster youth, including any mental or behavioral health needs. 

This bill drafts come after millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were allocated to children’s mental health in Nevada, a state that continuously ranks at the bottom in the nation for access to care and higher prevalence of mental illness, an increase in opioid deaths for those under 25 and struggles with a shortage of mental health professionals in schools and supportive housing.

The committee also heard from the Patient Protection Committee (PPC) about adopting PPC bylaws and conflict of interest forms and creating a Stakeholder Advisory Subcommittee after industry-friendly appointees vocalized opposition to the committee’s goal to rein in health care costs earlier this year. 

Other BDRs that progressed include the following: 

  • Expanding School-Based Health Centers to include behavioral health and dental health services and ensure enrollment in Medicaid managed care provider networks. 
  • Easing access to important documents like state identification cards and birth certificates for homeless youth.
  • Training educators to identify commercially sexually exploited children at schools. 
  • Amending the state Medicaid plan for a coverage requirement on substance use, and mental and behavioral health through integrated healthcare models. 
  • Require the Department of Child and Family Services, the Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH), Department of Health and Human Services to each craft a comprehensive state plan for behavioral health clinical standards for children and adults.

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Camalot Todd
Camalot Todd

An award-winning, investigative and enterprise reporter, Camalot Todd has over seven years experience in print, digital, radio and TV journalism. She covered mental and behavioral health in New York for Spectrum News 1 Buffalo through the national service program, Report For America, where she won the Mental Health Advocates of WNY Advocacy Award in 2020 for her coverage on mental health stigma. She also served as an inaugural member of the Report For America Corps Advisory Board Member, 2021-2022. Previously, she reported on community issues in Las Vegas, including a long-term project on underage sex trafficking, for the Las Vegas Sun and its sister publication, Las Vegas Weekly. For the Sun, she wrote a pathbreaking investigative piece called, “Children on the Cusp: The transition from foster care to adulthood is leaving some behind.” The piece won the Nevada Press Association best investigative story of the year and named Camalot the Best Community Reporter of 2017. She also worked as a reporter for KUNV radio and is a graduate of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Camalot was selected for National Press Foundation Opioid and Addiction Fellow 2021 and led the Syracuse Press Club's Journalism Lab as an educator from 2021-2022.

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