Housing Studied For Nevada's Mentally Ill

Mental Health Care
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Members of a legislative committee have agreed to push for more housing and services for the mentally ill in Nevada.

The committee, headed by Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, also called for increased training of police and correctional officers who deal with the mentally ill.

Carlos Brandenburg, administrator of the state Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, told the committee Monday that housing for Nevada's mentally ill is "woefully inadequate."

But Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, proposed a "marriage of housing and services," adding, "The most efficient way is to make sure they go hand-in-hand."

Townsend said there must be efforts to "destigmatize" the image of mental illness, possibly by getting public relations firms to help in a campaign. He said politicians spend lots of money with these companies and they might be persuaded to provide some free help.

The committee also proposed ways to dovetail its ideas with new federal mental health efforts to capitalize on available money.

Charles Horsey, administrator of the state Housing Division, said an application before the federal government has a contribution of $25,000 from local governments that may produce $500,000 from the federal government for the "chronically homeless" in Clark County.

Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, suggested that a subcommittee of the Legislative Interim Finance Committee be created to coordinate the search for federal housing dollars for the disabled, mentally ill, poor and others.

Rawson also pushed through a resolution calling for the support of triage centers that take care of the mentally ill who crowd hospital emergency rooms, particularly in southern Nevada.

The meeting was the last of seven held during the past six months to implement the findings of a presidential commission on mental health. The state panel now plans a report to Gov. Kenny Guinn.