Carson City’s mental health issues brought to Board of Supervisors

The Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting as the Board of Health Thursday heard about the growing demand for mental health services in the city.

Private providers as well as personnel from the Sheriff’s Office and school district talked about the need outstripping available services.

“In terms of gaps, demand exceeds supply,” said Jim Freeland, a licensed clinical social worker with Sierra Nevada Health Center, and one of about a dozen presenters.

Freeland and others talked about three to four week waiting lists to see a therapist and a month or longer to see a psychiatrist.

Genevieve Ramos, director, Serenity Mental Health, said telemedicine picks up some of the slack, allowing clients to see psychiatrists remotely.

“It’s fantastic we have it, but it would be more beneficial if we had more face to face time,” she said. “The waiting list is tremendous.”

Israel Loyola, a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, talked about the city’s Mobile Outreach Service Team, known as MOST, a crisis intervention team who works to get the mentally ill treatment instead of putting them behind bars.

“Jail is not designed for people with mental illnesses and it’s put a lot of stress on the justice system and deputies,” said Loyola.

Loyola said the city could benefit from assisted outpatient treatment, a civil proceeding in which individuals are court-ordered to receive treatment.

The procedure is used in Las Vegas and will soon be tried in Washoe County.

Nicki Aaker, director, Carson City Health and Human Services, said the city will watch how it works in Washoe County as a possible solution in Carson City.

After the presentations, Aaker listed the shortcomings in the current mental health system that were discussed, including geriatric services, data collection, opioid addiction, gaps in insurance coverage and local transportation, and in therapy and psychiatric services.

“As a community we’ve made great strides and, yes, there’s room for improvement,” she said. “But there’s a lot of people working on this.”

In terms of progress, Carson City schools are now staffed with a team of social workers helping 560 children thanks to state legislation passed in 2015 that made grant money available.

“With the first quarter behind us now, we’ve seen a very valuable contribution,” said Richard Stokes, superintendent, Carson City School District. “We’re grateful to have this benefit.”

In Carson City, about 2,000 adults, or 6 percent of the city’s adult population, have serious mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or major depression, said Susan Pintar, a physician and chair of the Board of Health.

Mayor Bob Crowell asked what role the board could play in finding solutions.

“Clinical care is a small piece of it,” said Pintar. “We have influence on all the other determinants.”

Aaker said both job opportunities and housing availability, for example, had an impact on mental health.

Before the Board of Health convened, the Board of Supervisors met briefly.

The supervisors approved a change order to the construction contract at the Water Resource Recovery Facility.

With the project on time and within budget, the Public Works department requested $445,050 from its $1.4 million contingency fund to replace and install three headworks’ screw pumps, which are currently in danger of failing.

The board also heard on first reading an amendment to include four-wheel, all-terrain vehicles in the motorcycle ordinance which prohibits them from being driven within 500 feet of residences, except in the case of snow removal and weed abatement.

The supervisors also directed city staff to start the process of a zoning map and text amendments for certain properties around the Carson City Airport.

The properties would be changed from Air Industrial Park, Limited Industrial, and Public Community to General Industrial, with certain land use restrictions, including no federally-illegal businesses such as medical marijuana establishments.

One parcel, which has split zoning, would be consolidated under Public Regional.


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