LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Experts call a lack of access to behavioral health services in Nevada a critical problem but say that a new plan is expected to improve the situation.

Cassandra Bouakka said getting her teen son the care he needs has taken two years, with the road to services littered with ‘no,’ ‘we can’t,’ and ‘you have to make an appointment.’

“My child has had severe major depression with recurring psychosis,” Bouakka said, adding that things got so bad for her son that he was hospitalized. “Mental illness is something so hard to wrap your head around because your child is in pain.”

According to Mental Health America, in 2023, Nevada ranked 39th in the nation for access to mental health care, and 51st for youth mental health, indicating that Nevada youth have a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care.

Bouakka said she was not surprised at the ranking, adding that people of all ages have trouble finding a behavioral health provider. The Silver State Health Improvement Plan, a document which focuses on the need for improved health care in the region, said the state needs an additional 424 mental health workers, and 1,714 substance abuse, behavioral disorder counselors.

Additionally, experts say some providers opt out of contracting with insurance companies, saying that the reimbursement rate is so low that keeping the doors open would be unsustainable.

Mira, a company providing health insurance alternatives, said the average cost of mental health therapy in Nevada is $140 per session without insurance.

Officials say the Silver State Health Improvement Plan aims to help parents like Bouakka, highlighting bills and initiatives meant to increase and retain behavioral health professionals in the region. Additionally, it aims to improve Nevada’s behavioral health workorce pipeline by expanding loan repayment options and extending teleheath requirements.

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