Problem gambling center finds need for help dramatic | NevadaAppeal.com
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Problem gambling center finds need for help dramatic

The psychologist who opened a center for problem gamblers in Reno said Tuesday he “seriously underestimated” the need for treatment in the Reno-Carson City area.

“I told staff they’d have two or three months to ramp up,” said Dr. Robert Hunter, who operates a similar center in Las Vegas. “Here it is three weeks later and we’re bursting at the seams.”

The center’s first class is full with as many as 10, with more already on the waiting list for the next class, according to Hunter.

“We opened the door and they came flooding in. I think it’s an understatement to say I underestimated the need in Northern Nevada,” he said. “The first day, there were a couple of people clutching newspaper articles about us at the front door, saying ‘I need help.'”

Hunter opened the Reno center on Humboldt Street with the help of a $65,000 state grant. It is the first time the state has put money into treating gambling addiction. He said he has another $137,000 from the state for next fiscal year, but is trying to find more funding to expand services.

“If we had the money, we’d expand right now,” he said.

The class sizes are limited because it’s an intensive six-week program where people attend four days a week followed by a year of weekly sessions after graduation.

“It’s an illness – but a treatable illness,” Hunter said.

He urged people with a gambling problem to keep coming while he and the staff look for ways to expand the programs.

“I need to make it clear the phones are open and we’re there for you,” he said. “The staff is way into this. There’s a tremendous sense of teamwork and camaraderie. Even those we can’t put into group right now, they’re touching base with the counselors, going to ‘GA (gamblers anonymous).'”

Hunter said he believes gambling addiction can be even more devastating to families than alcohol in some cases because “these people can literally change their family’s financial situation for years in a weekend.”

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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