Commission backs funds for mental health, drug courts
The Commission on the Administration of Justice voted unanimously on Tuesday to urge the governor and legislature to include $3 million in the upcoming state budget to expand specialty courts.
Those courts operate educational and treatment programs for those with mental health, drug and other problems as well as for veterans suffering with such things as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Clark County District Judge David Barker told the commission Clark County last week cut off access to specialty courts.
“We’re not even allowed to send individuals to drug court any more,” he said. “The door was closed last week. They say they’ve got 1,000 participants with a staff for 400.”
The issue was raised by Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty who said the commission must emphasize the importance of specialty courts in treating mental health and drug addiction rather than just sending those defendants to prison.
He said Washoe County is in the same situation as Clark and plans to shut off access to specialty court programs in January. The rurals too, he said, are overloaded with the need for mental health and drug addiction programs.
“There’s a serious lack of funding in specialty courts and a lack of stability in that funding,” he said.
Because of that need, he said the Supreme Court included the $3 million to expand specialty court programs in its proposed 2016-2017 budget.
“It’s high time this successful program be funded from the General Fund,” Hardesty said.
Barker too emphasized the need: “This is a critical need. Drug court is an excellent program and needs to be appropriately funded.”
The panel voted unanimously to ask the governor and lawmakers to support the Supreme Court’s budget proposal.
The commission also voted to support changes to the law to help prevent deaths from Heroin overdoses. That includes changing the Good Samaritan Law to allow prople to call for help when someone overdoses without fear of being prosecuted themselves.
It also includes expanding access to the drug Naloxone, also called Narcan, which testimony from Reno Municipal Court Judge Dorothy Nash Holmes said can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose within two minutes.
But the commission was again unable to resolve law opposition by enforcement and district attorneys to allow at least some prison inmates serving time for Category B felonies access to good time credits.
Inmates convicted of A and B felonies — generally the most serious crimes — currently don’t get any good time credits for programs or good conduct while in prison.
Hardesty urged them to at least consider letting judges determine whether a defendant should be eligible for good time credits at sentencing.
Commission Chairman Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said he would bring a bill in the 2015 session to deal with that issue.
“The reality of it is the B felonies are taking over the prison system and we have to do something about it,” he said. “It’s inevitable.”