Mental health was the hot topic of conversation Tuesday at the Chamber of Commerce’s Soups On! luncheon.
More than 100 people gathered at the Gold Dust West to hear Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong and Chief of Juvenile Services Dr. Ali Banister discuss mental health in Carson City, especially the importance of focusing on juveniles. The two explained what the problem is with mental health in the community and what resources are in the area, with the discussion coming on the heels of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
“Today’s subject is featured nationwide ... Carson City isn’t immune to mass shootings,” said Chamber executive director Ronni Hannaman, referencing the 2011 IHOP shooting.
Furlong talked about how much of the mental health problem stems from the community missing opportunities to help those in crisis before they get to critical levels. He said of the 2,000 calls for service they typically receive per month in Carson, about 60 percent have mental health at the core of the problem.
“I give Carson City a pat on the back but also recognize we have a long road ahead,” said District Attorney Jason Woodbury, who also spoke at the lunch. “Carson City is trying to fight that connection with mental health and criminal or delinquent acts because we can’t think that treatment is different with one for the other, that is just a waste of resources.”
He also talked about how many of the times it’s difficult on the law enforcement end to really fix the problem, despite having a number of programs in the Sheriff’s Office.
“Police normally restore something that just occurred ... we arrest, take them to jail and call it fixed,” Furlong said. “But as police we create a semblance of peace then we pass it onto others like Ali.
“Jails and emergency rooms are no longer the answers (for those with mental illness). They don’t fix things and they are overloaded with mentally ill individuals who need long term help.”
One of those ways to help is by getting resources to an individual as soon as possible, when they are youth.
“We need to focus on the earliest opportunity to make change because in juveniles is where we see that there is crisis down the road and we need to pay particular emphasis to our kids,” Furlong said.
Banister explained to the audience the different programs Juvenile Probation Services has created to help with those identifications and resources in Carson youths.
“It is so important to address this when they are young because if we don’t, ultimately that is how they end up in the adult system,” Banister said.
She said one of their main goals with Juvenile Services is to avoid unnecessary detention for youths if mental health help is what’s needed to fix the delinquent behavior.
“It may seem backward, but we really want to avoid putting these kids into the system if we don’t have to,” Banister said.
Most of the youth they see suffer from mental health problems and/or trauma that may be the cause of the issues. Banister said 90 percent of juveniles in the system have been exposed to trauma, nationwide 70 percent have a mental health disorder while in Carson, 75 percent of the juveniles they come across have a mental health disorder. More than half the youth they see have two or more mental health diagnoses and 61 percent have a substance abuse issue on top of the mental health disorder.
Banister said while they’ve been working on programs such as the Juvenile Justice Assessment Triage Team for mental health, there are still gaps missing in the community with gender-specific treatment, a step-down process for reintegration and more. For now, they offer resources for youths such as medicine management, therapy, family support and co-occurring treatment as well as a number of programs for delinquent youths to help address the root of their behavior.
“This is also provided for youth not on probation if someone sees a need for help, we can intervene and provide that,” Banister said.
The two also talked about the importance of the community getting involved to help solve the problem. Furlong said businesses or individuals can help sponsor programs and organizations who help break or alleviate the cycles that lead to mental health related traumas such as the Advocates to End Domestic Violence. He also said people communicating with Juvenile Services and the Sheriff’s Office can help them become aware of possible problems before they become problems.
“We have to identify them when the stressors come up, before it gets to epic proportions,” Furlong said.