Last month, we noted May is “Mental Health Month” and that Nevada has a substantial shortage of mental health professionals but ranks near last in access to mental health care (Mental Health America, 2018). News 4 and Fox 11 in Reno on February 21 of this year, ran a story by Kim Burrows, named “Nevada is Dead Last for mental health, State working on a fix.”How mental health services are limited across Nevada. In Reno, one of the largest behavioral health service providers closed its doors last year. It cited a financial shortfall with government funding partners as a reason why. Since then, Renown opened the Stacie Mathewson Behavioral Health and Addiction Institute.
Charles Duarte the Chief Executive Officer for the Community Health Alliance says there’s a stigma associated with a mental health condition and there shouldn’t be. He runs a non-profit organization that has six community health centers in Washoe County that provide primary medical, dental and behavioral health and nutrition services for 30,000 patients every year.
Duarte is on one of four regional behavioral health policy boards created in 2017. Each submitted bills for this legislative session to address mental health care.
AB47 – Creates a pilot approach in rural Nevada to train law enforcement officers and first responders in crisis intervention training. It also provides funding to transport those people for evaluation and treatment.
AB66 – Proposes to create crisis stabilization centers in Washoe and Clark County. There would be eight-bed facilities and patients would stay no more than 14 days.
AB85 – Enhances the 72-hour legal hold to evaluate and stabilize a patient. Part of the bill would allow for transportation by someone other than law enforcement.
AB76 – Allows the four regional behavioral boards to hire additional staff to gather research.
Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, is the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services. He says Nevada needs to step up its game when it comes to mental health services. “It’s horrible for the state of Nevada and what we need to be doing as state leaders are really addressing this issue,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with this since the 1980s and finally we’re having honest conversations about how important this is.”
A stabilization center in AB66 was modeled after a program in Maricopa County, Arizona. “The reports out of Phoenix for 2016 for this program suggested that over 300 million dollars in hospital savings were achieved by having these types of services available,” Duarte said. Maricopa County also reports that it saved the equivalent of 37 police officers who are no longer tied up dropping off patients at the hospital or jail.
Things are definitely looking up for our State. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said he’d make mental health a priority. He mentioned it in his State of the State address. “That’s why I recommend adding new staff that will focus on mental health and substance abuse,” he said earlier this year.
While the Legislature is at work in addressing our dire mental health needs in Nevada, there are some resources available. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is an advocacy organization helping to get people in touch with services and provide information about mental illness. If you need behavioral or mental health information or help, NAMI has a helpline. The HelpLine is a free service that provides information, referrals, and support to people living with a mental health condition, family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. A well-trained and knowledgeable team of volunteers, interns, and HelpLine staff will respond to your call or message.
The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org.