Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn has signed a bill letting police divert the mentally ill, or anyone who is drunk or on drugs, from hospital emergency rooms and jails and into treatment centers.
SB94 is part of a multi-pronged effort to get faster and more appropriate care for people who are picked up by police. Sometimes they sit in hospital emergency rooms filling beds for as long as two days.
Legislative money committees also have agreed to a $32 million 150-bed psychiatric hospital at the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Hospitals. While that's being built, there's also funding to expand the number of beds at the present facility from 88 to 103.
Las Vegas Metro Police Lt. Stan Olsen said Thursday that the Clark County Detention Center has more mentally ill people than any other facility in Nevada.
"They don't belong in jail," said Olsen, adding that the new law permits police to place people in treatment centers for 48 hours until they're stabilized.
Olsen said the county has worked with Carlos Brandenburg, director of the state Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, to remedy the problem.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)