Several Carson City law enforcement leaders were recognized on a state level this past week for their efforts with mental health improvement in the community.
Ali Banister, chief of Carson City Juvenile Probation, was recently selected to serve on the Nevada Commission on Behavioral Health and Developmental Services by Governor Brian Sandoval. The 10-person organization was created by the Legislature to provide policy guidance and oversight of Nevada’s system of integrated care and treatment of adults and juveniles with mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities.
“I am really honored to be selected and I am hopeful to have an impact and a voice for youth with mental health as well as youth suffering in the rural areas of Nevada,” Banister said. “I have always had an interest in mental health as I have seen it more recognized in Nevada and I am hopeful to add awareness to juvenile mental health to this commission.”
Banister has been instrumental in Carson City for her work with juveniles in mental health. She helped create the Juvenile Justice Assessment Triage Team within JPO to help children in the system receive treatment; she sits on a number of local and regional mental health task forces, and is getting her Ph.D. in public policy and administration, focusing her dissertation in trauma in juveniles and how mental health impacts youth in the juvenile system.
“I have spent a lot of my career researching the best practices for mental health and how we can improve services for youth suffering from a mental health diagnosis, with the hope of diverting them from the juvenile justice system,” Banister said.
The commission has been around for many years, however, many of the members who sit on it are from Southern Nevada.
“I think it’s important for Northern Nevada to have a voice in mental health and behavioral health because it is an increasing problem statewide and we are seeing an increase of the problem in juvenile services,” Banister said. “We see lots of kids come through our doors with mental health problems and co-occurring problems, so to be able to have an impact, we must have that voice statewide to make real changes.”
While on the board, Banister hopes to help the commission create statewide programs to help youth suffering mental health and their families with resources.
“My biggest passion is for the youth with co-occurring disorders and I want to advocate for these youth and families and be able provide any type of service possible to help make their lives easier,” Banister said. “I would also love to implement the JJAST program statewide because it is instrumental in diverting youth with mental disorders out of the juvenile justice system and into proper care. If we could implement a program like JJAST statewide, it would be very beneficial for juveniles.
“More than 70 percent of justice involved youth nationwide have had exposure to trauma in some way in their life which can ultimately lead to a mental health diagnosis. I would love to see this number decrease and I believe there are creative solutions to remedy problem, rather exposing these kids to the court system or placing them in detention.”
Banister will serve on the commission until July 2019.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong was also recognized for his efforts with mental health in the community Monday.
He was awarded the Behavioral Health Innovator award at the annual Sheriff’s and Chiefs meeting in Las Vegas. The award was given by the Regional Behavioral Health Coalition for his role in leading and supporting rural communities and mental health and law enforcement collaboration efforts, said Regional Behavioral Health Coordinator Jessica Flood.
“He has been an unsung hero in supporting other counties to roll out mental health programs such as the Mobile Outreach Safety Team, Forensic Assessment Services Triage Team and the Crisis Intervention Training,” Flood said. “He has allowed his own staff to go out and teach trainings for three other counties... Furlong is a real support and champion in behavioral health which in the end creates a stronger and safer community.”
Lyon County Sheriff Al McNeil presented the award to his colleague Monday night in a surprise ceremony.
“I was honored, it was a very nice surprise,” Furlong said.
He said the award isn’t as important as the progress the community has made to improve mental health in the community in the last few years.
“With the IHOP shooting in 2011, we realized the problems our community has with mental health and the devastation it can cause if gone untreated, so we started working toward a solution and I am pleased with the collaborations that have come forth,” Furlong said.
Furlong credits increased training for his officers and more programming as the biggest factors in the help with mental health. The department has its MOST Team, which pairs a clinician with patrol deputies to provide resources to mentally ill individuals before they end up in the system, as well as their FASTT program inside the jail to continue working on mental health when incarceration is needed.
“We have many layers to mental health in this community,” Furlong said. “I am not seeing a tremendous climb in mental health issues. We haven’t totally wrapped our arms around it yet, but we are getting there and it has taken us many years to build it to that point.”