Time for mental health court

Law enforcement officers and mental health workers in Carson City don't necessarily need more options for helping people with mental illness, but they need a way to pull their resources together.

That's why the idea of a mental health court has merit.

A judge would have authority to seek help immediately for someone who needs treatment more than they need to be in jail. A crucial factor in a mental health court would be the ability to monitor people who are repeat offenders without bouncing them back and forth between the judicial system and mental-health agencies.

"We don't always meet the needs of these people, " District Attorney Noel Waters said, in the Nevada Appeal's series this week on mental health. "Unless you address their mental health problems, you're not going to have a great deal of success addressing their social issues."

Nevada needs to take a more active role in solving such problems, and Carson City could provide an example.

With its unenviable reputation as a high-risk state for suicides and drug addiction, Nevada can't ignore the forces that drive people to such self-destructive acts.

Locking them up isn't the answer. Tough drug laws deter some recreational users, but clearly many more people need treatment and rehabilitation.

Often the problems of mental illness, drug abuse and crime overlap. A combination mental health and drug court seems to be a logical step, because the goal is the same: prevent repeat offenses.

None of this is to say the courts are looking for a way to coddle criminals. Deputies, prosecutors and judges can see the difference between people who need to be punished and those who need help.

Their frustration comes with the people who need help, but keep showing up in jails and courts because there is no better way to handle them.

Members of the Carson City Mental Health Coalition have a great deal of work ahead of them in trying to establish a mental health court, as well as coordinate their various programs and draw more attention to mental-health issues in the Legislature.

We support their work and encourage their efforts. More people than we might imagine are depending on them.


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