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Karen Abowd: Mental health vital to a healthy community

Karen Abowd
For the Nevada Appeal
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

Editor’s note: The Nevada Appeal presented the Carson City Board of Supervisors, the mayor and city manager an opportunity for a column. Lori Bagwell will appear next Sunday:

Quality of life is integral to a healthy community, and mental health services must not be omitted from that discussion. According to a national Health and Human Services survey, approximately 20 percent of adults (at least 18 years old) experienced a mental disorder in any one year. The most common include:

19 percent: Anxiety Disorders: panic disorders, post- traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder

8 percent: Alcohol/substance abuse/dependence

6.8 percent: Major depressive disorder

2.8 percent: Bipolar disorders

2.1 percent: Eating disorders

At least half of all mental disorders begin by age 14; three-quarters by age 24.

Carson City psychologist Lisa Keating emphasized the need for expanded parenting programs as a vital preventive measure against stress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse issues in youth and more social support groups for teens and pre-teens, suggesting the Division of Child and Family Services could offer intensive in-home services to at-risk families. While expensive up front, parenting improvements could mean less need for juvenile detention, addiction and mental health services.

Ron Wood Family Resource Center offers parenting classes, bereavement, grief, loss, separation anxiety and abuse counseling for ages 3-17, directing clients to additional resources whether insured or not. The scope of their outreach is limited by grant and private funding.

A Columbia University study found 7 million to 12 million youth suffer from mental illness (two of three untreated), and suicide is the third-ranked cause of death in 15-19 year olds, nationally. Three million youth are at risk of suicide; only 36 percent receive treatment. Depression affects 750,000 teens at any one time.

That study yielded the TeenScreen program which, with the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program, provides knowledge and support, according to Misty Vaughan Allen, Suicide Prevention coordinator of Nevada, Division of Public and Behavioral Health. SOS is a brief, school-based suicide education/screening program for middle/high schools which combines education and facilitated discussion with students, a depression and suicide risk screening tool and gate keeper training and materials for parents and teachers. Student participation requires parental permission.

The core of SOS is ACT: Acknowledge signs of suicide, respond with Care, and Tell a trusted adult. SOS teaches students to respond to the signs of suicide as a medical emergency and to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health help while respecting privacy and providing guidance. Kathy Bartosz, executive director of Partnership Carson City, said through collaborative efforts of the Community Action Agency network (CAAN), Kathy Harris, LCSW, Suicide Prevention and Domestic Violence expert for the NV Urban Indians in Reno, efforts to establish the SOS program in Carson City schools will begin by this fall.

Community collaboration is essential to funding outreach.

Bartosz praised CC School District under Superintendent Richard Stokes for offering teachers professional growth credits for substance abuse recognition and mental health first aid training, and commended The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and its peer-to-peer and family-to-family training that “encourages those with mental health issues to share their story and bring hope and realization (they’re not alone).” Despite Affordable Care Act expanded coverage, Nevada has a shortage of private practitioners and psychologists.

Sheriff Ken Furlong emphasized caution, stressing the importance of team collaboration in eliminating barriers between social work and law enforcement. Juvenile Assessment Services Triage Team (JASTT) combines law enforcement, social work, nursing and medical personnel to connect families with services. Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Ben Bianchi said having clinicians work with juveniles is critical to keeping kids out of the system. Kathleen Bent, LCSW is fine-tuning an intervention program that teaches professionals to recognize red flags, and brings children and resources together in a manner that protects children’s privacy.

Nevada lacks intensive juvenile treatment facilities. One youth was sent to Texas for care; a hardship for all. Many families absorb the nature of their child’s behavior until it’s too late.

Father Jerry Hanley sees folks trying to define mental health in their own families, a topic that impacts the entire family.

Quality of life for a healthy community must include mental health services. It’s refreshing state and local agencies praise Carson City’s collaborative efforts. In future articles, I will share more on this topic as it will affect all age groups.

Karen Abowd Carson City Supervisor Ward 1 can be reached at kabowd@carson.org or 775-232-8626.