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Clark County buys unused psych hospital to create behavioral health crisis stabilization center

County officials intend for new facility to help provide emergency behavioral care alternatives to ERs and jails. (Credit: Cushman & Wakefield)

Camalot Todd, Nevada Current
March 8, 2024

Clark County purchased a 24-bed psychiatric hospital for $10.4 million this week. It plans to turn the property into a crisis stabilization unit pilot program to open later this year, according to Clark County Deputy Manager Abigail Frierson. 

Crisis stabilization units are small facilities that offer short-term behavioral health care including psychiatric stabilization and substance withdrawal treatment in a place that is less restrictive and less disruptive to a person’s life than a hospital or jail.  

“There’s not a lot of opportunity to get emergency behavioral health care in the Valley so often people will have to go to the emergency room and in certain circumstances, they would have to go to jail,” and the new facility will provide a needed alternative, Frierson said.

Nevada ranks at the bottom of all states in access to behavioral health care services and has a higher prevalence of mental illness, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America’s annual rankings. People throughout the state are often forced to use emergency rooms or wait for jail-based services because other services aren’t available.

“Traditionally, behavioral health is not something the county administers, that’s more in the purview of the State of Nevada, but we did see that this was a need in the Valley, an unmet need. In partnership with the State of Nevada, we decided to move in this direction,” Frierson said.

The program will be funded through partnerships between the state and the county. The state will reimburse Clark County for part of the purchase price of the facility and services will be funded through insurance and the county, she said.

The program would be in addition to the state’s efforts to bring crisis stabilization centers on board per federal guidelines for the 988 program’s initiative to build a behavioral health infrastructure for people in crisis – “someone to call, someone to come and somewhere to go.”

While Nevada was initially one of only a handful of states to fund the 988 crisis line, it has faced delays in getting that funding, finding staffing, and has struggled to provide multilingual access. Delayed funding in particular has pushed back the state’s efforts in implementing the other two requirements of the federal government for the 988 program: mobile crisis teams to come to people in need of help, and crisis stabilization centers to provide care. 

“This works adjacently with 988,” Frierson said, noting that “as a pilot, I don’t think that this facility can handle all the need in the Valley. ”

The building, located in North Las Vegas, was completed in 2021, but never used. Frierson some small changes will need to be made to the facility, and the county also needs time to recruit staff and obtain licensing. 

After the one year pilot program ends, the county will decide if it is feasible for it to continue, Frierson said.

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This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.