‘Hopefully this time, everyone will stay committed’ to improving mental health in Nevada

Richard Steinberg is the CEO and president of WestCare, founded more than 40 years ago on Thursday, August 28, 2014. WestCare, a family of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments.

Dick Steinberg is president and CEO of the WestCare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to help those in need of behavioral and mental health treatment. Started as the Fitzsimmons House in Las Vegas in 1973, the foundation has expanded to communities across the country and around the world. Steinberg is optimistic about the future of mental and behavioral health care in Nevada but realistic about the state’s need for continued help from organizations such as WestCare.

What’s the status of mental health services in Southern Nevada?

The good news is that many people have now looked seriously at the strengths and weaknesses facing Southern Nevada when it comes to mental and behavorial health services. Not all is bleak, as many improvements have been implemented.

However, we have a long way to go to really reduce emergency room overcrowding caused in large part by patients with drug addiction or mental health issues being dumped there. They can be served better and much more cost effectively by referring them to Community Triage Center(s), which were specifically designed for this purpose.

Additionally, key hospital administrators have stepped up to the plate to expand psychiatric services, and this has begun to relieve some of the stressors on this overburdened system. The state has also stepped up its game with many solid improvements to the Rawson-Neal State Hospital.

What’s still needed, and how can care be improved?

Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed a special Mental Health/Behavioral Health Council to evaluate and make recommendations to him and the Legislature, but we still have a long way to go to see our community working as one to address and maintain a quality system. Although all the players are coming to the table, if the effort is not sustained and continued for a long time, many of these efforts will begin to erode, and we will fall behind and go through much of the same community crisis again.

In my 37 years at WestCare, I’ve seen the same crisis come — short-term fixes implemented — and then when not adjusting for growth of our community, the same crisis reappears. Hopefully this time, everyone will stay committed and fully implement a quality communitywide behavioral health system that not only will be good for our community mental health crisis but assist and free up fire and rescue, law enforcement and other health care systems that should be focused on other critical areas of need.

To what do you attribute WestCare’s success?

We are in our 42nd year as a community nonprofit health organization, delivering a variety of services to our patients and clients in 17 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. On the other side of the world, we have services in a number of Pacific islands headquartered in Guam.

Our success is just a very simple formula: We look at community and human needs and see if we can be part of the solution. Although our service portfolio is diversified, our global spread has been largely by the invitation from a community or sometimes another nonprofit provider seeking us out to see if we can help. Nothing magical ... just pure community collaboration and pooling of resources to address health and human service problems — and never saying “it can’t be done,” especially when folks are suffering.

WestCare strives to be an integral partner in each community in which we have a presence. We do not dictate our services from Las Vegas to other states or offshore territories. We let each community’s needs dictate the services, and then we try our best to be of assistance.

What are you reading right now?

The Bible.

What do you do after work?

Enjoy quality time with my wife, children and grandson.

Describe your management style?

As I’ve gotten a little older and blessed with a great board of directors, I’ve also been blessed with a fantastic team of senior leadership staff members. I now find my management style evolving more as a mentor, but I’m continually trying to stress to my senior team that we should all try to manage as good “servant leaders.” This goes along with our tagline of “uplifting the human spirit.”

Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years?

For me, I’m on the 50-year plan, so in 10 years, I will be completing 47 years on the job, with only three years left until I retire. However, I’m afraid WestCare’s services will still be needed in this world. And with the changing research, hopefully we will be doing an even better job treating those in our care.

What is your dream job, outside of your current field?

I’d like to go back to my earlier youth/career of working at a YMCA camp, giving canoe lessons, and guiding a small group of campers down a lazy river in the woods.

Whom do you admire and why?

I admire my wife, Sharon, for supporting and assisting me with the devotion and passion of helping others less fortunate. WestCare has always been a 24/7 operation, and I could not keep up the pace and balance without my wife and family’s support and blessing.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Racial and cultural discrimination.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I love strumming a few chords on my old guitar.

Tags: The Sunday