Experts address mental health issues in Carson City |

Experts address mental health issues in Carson City

Jessica Garcia
Jacob Hicks, a nurse at Mallory Behavioral Health Crisis Center, shares what his facility is doing to address patients with mental health issues at Thursday's Carson City Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Gold Dust West.
Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

Nevada ranked 51st in providing access to mental health care services last year, according to Mental Health America’s 2018 “State of Mental Health” report, but Carson City is working to address the growing crisis.

The National Alliance on Mental Alliance on Thursday hosted several local experts at a Carson City Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Gold Dust West to talk about services available in the city to help adults, youth and children, with Robin Reedy, executive director of NAMI Nevada moderating.

With more than 200 forms of mental illness and one in five expected to experience at least one type of it this year, according to NAMI, Carson City’s agencies, courts and health centers are working to determine where to best target their efforts and provide services.

Chief of Juvenile Services Ali Banister shared in Carson City, 70 percent of youth involved in the justice system have undergone trauma or have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. More than half of these youth met the criteria for at least two diagnoses and 61 percent with a mental disorder also have a substance abuse disorder.

Banister said with the impact of serious events across the nation such as school shootings where fatalities and injuries are involved, more effective diversion and community-based treatment programs are needed. She was a founder of the Juvenile Justice Assessment Triage Team and said the program has worked to reduce the number of arrests and eliminate incarceration, instead working with the court system to address the youths’ behavioral health issues.

Judge Kristin Luis spoke of the city’s Mental Health Court and shared a team approach on the program established by her predecessor, former Justice of the Peace John Tatro, sharing about 30 come in for treatment and said while the court often has to determine whether some are competent for proceedings due to their mental health, many are a “revolving door” and they must assess them for personality disorders or whether they need treatment or whether they need help for substance abuse or other issues.

Jacob Hicks, a nurse at Mallory Behavioral Health Crisis Center, which formerly housed Carson Tahoe Hospital, addressed some of the center’s key services for those who have abused substances and need access to 24-hour emergency service.

For others, ensuring public safety as a whole has a more immediate impact and requires swift assessment. Sheriff Kenny Furlong addressed how his department’s Crisis Intervention Team helps to train officers in de-escalation, making sure mentally ill individuals aren’t harming others and receiving “the best opportunity in life,” he said.

Carson City law enforcement officials respond to 3,000 calls a month, Furlong said, and there has been a 35 percent increase in the number of those who have been incarcerated with mental health needs in Nevada prisons in the past decade. Carson’s police officers, Furlong said, are in constant need of assessing on scene whether they should keep those someone who’s exhibiting signs of mental illness out of jail or an emergency room. With initiatives such as the Forensic Assessment Service Triage (FAST) team he helped to establish, which operates in the jail to assist inmates with their mental health issues through the aid of a licensed psychologist, the number of those entering Carson City’s jail has begun to decline.

Furlong said perception also is key in crisis-level situations.

“This uniform is not to people in jail,” he said.

But, Furlong added, the shooting that took place at the IHOP at 3883 S. Carson St. in September 2011 was a stark reminder there will always be a need to offer help and hope for those with mental health issues locally and nationally.

“There’s not a pill that can take away these illnesses,” he said.