Nevada official ousted over squalid homes for mentally ill

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Nevada state official responsible for residential care for severely mentally ill people has been ousted after an audit found squalid conditions at taxpayer-funded homes under a program she oversaw.

Amy Roukie resigned instead of being fired as Division of Public and Behavioral Health State Health administrator, Human Services chief Richard Whitley said, according to a Reno Gazette Journal report last week.

Roukie told The Las Vegas Review-Journal that her ouster was political, but declined to elaborate.

In a letter to a state legislative audit committee, Whitley said Roukie intentionally made false statements last Wednesday when she told lawmakers that a deputy state mental health administrator had been replaced due to the audit findings.

"While the division is committed to correcting all deficient practices noted in the audit report," Whitley wrote, "the division had not taken any disciplinary action against any employee at the time of Ms. Roukie’s testimony."

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Roukie was named Public and Behavioral Health administrator in July, after having been deputy administrator in charge of the state’s two adult mental health agencies. She oversaw the housing program in both of those roles.

Auditors found unsafe conditions at nearly all 37 sites they visited, more than a year after a Gazette Journal investigation found similar problems with the program.

At the time, Whitley and Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, vowed to fix the problems. Homes were inspected, program changes were implemented and a new law was passed strengthening the authority of health officials to regulate the private providers that operate the homes.

Recent visits found homes with excessively dirty floors, rodent infestations, mold and mildew and broken glass, according to the audit. Auditors also reported finding expired medicine and spoiled food, and homes with no toilet paper or hand soap for clients.

The state pays $1,450 per client per month to 105 homes with community-based living arrangements for adults with mental illness, the Review-Journal said.

Dr. Julie Kotchevar, who was named interim administrator for the agency, will lead the investigation into why squalid conditions were allowed to continue.

Providing false testimony to a legislative committee is a misdemeanor under state law. Rick Combs, state Legislative Counsel Bureau director, told the Gazette Journal that no decision had been made whether to prosecute Roukie.

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