By Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - In an effort to help ease crowding in Las Vegas emergency rooms inundated with psychiatric patients, state officials said they are considering partnerships with private hospitals.

Mike Willden, director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, said his agency is talking with two or three hospitals interested in opening psychiatric wings, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He declined to name the hospitals because the negotiations are ongoing.

The issue was among several discussed Monday and Tuesday at meetings of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Council. The panel is trying to determine how to address a high number of mental patients taking up ER beds, a problem that forced several Las Vegas hospitals to turn away ambulances in February.

The group also discussed opening more triage centers, where psychiatric patients can be stabilized outside of an emergency room setting.

“They may need short term care, they may need detoxification, they may be inebriated, under the influence of a drug and may need to sober up and come down and don’t have to be in an actual emergency department,” said Nevada Assemblyman Andy Eisen of Las Vegas, according the KSNV-TV.

The Las Vegas area needs about 100 triage beds, Willden said.

WestCare, a nonprofit that offers mental health services, has room for 50 patients in its triage center, but is only using 36. The state is hoping to work with WestCare to increase that number to 50, according to Willden.

Officials also hope to find a second location with WestCare or another provider to add the remaining 50 beds.

The proposals are expected to cost between $8 million and $10 million, but Willden said he thinks the funds can come from money in the current budget.

He said he planned to bring the proposals to the legislative Interim Finance Committee in June.

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