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Nevada’s suicide crisis: Mental health services struggle to meet demand

Nevada Appeal Staff Report

Much has changed in Nevada since former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher announced in July 1999 that suicide is a public health crisis.

Among the most notable additions in Nevada was the Office of Suicide Prevention, which focuses on coordinating suicide prevention grants and the suicide prevention hot line. It had a budget of about $175,000 in 2009, down from $188,000 in 2008, its first year of operation.

During the 2009 Legislature, Gov. Jim Gibbons originally proposed closing down 11 of the 21 rural clinics that provide mental health services.

Lawmakers, both rural and urban, Republican and Democrat, said that was unacceptable and would leave rural Nevada, where those with mental health issues are most isolated and vulnerable, without access to counseling and other services.

Working with Mental Health and Developmental Services officials, they approved a plan adding back nearly $1 million to restore nine of those clinics, including Fernley, Lake Tahoe and Silver Springs. One casualty, however, was the Dayton clinic since officials reasoned clients there could easily get services in Carson City.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Mental Health gave the Silver State a “D” grade in its 2009 report on the nation’s mental health care systems. The United States overall received a “D,” too.

NIMH noted that while Nevada has made significant strides to provide access to mental health services, “Nevada has struggled to keep pace with population growth and demand for mental health services.”