Carson City Sheriff Furlong calls for more mental health funding
March 5, 2017
Western Nevada officials urged lawmakers to support funding for regional efforts to deal with the rapidly growing need for mental health services.
East Fork Fire District Deputy Chief Dave Fogerson said a multi-county behavioral health committee has been formed to train personnel and develop triage centers to find appropriate ways of dealing with the mentally ill instead of jail.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said his department began working on how better to deal with mental health issues after the "horrific" mass shooting in 2011 at the IHOP restaurant in south Carson City. Five died in the shooting that was directly the result of mental illness.
He added the need is increasing dramatically and that the number of cases has increased 400 percent in Carson City in just the last two years.
"Constituents demanded a better service approach," he said. "Jails and hospital emergency rooms were not the answer."
He said his office began implementing training for deputies so they would have more knowledge of how to deal with incidents.
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Led by the state Health and Human Services Department, they began working on regional cooperation "without regard to county barriers," he said.
He said that regional approach bringing together Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties began producing enormous results. But he and the others testifying made clear those efforts need state support.
Lyon County Manager Jeff Page said as a result, mental health is "no longer a jail issue; it's a behavioral health issue."
"What I'm proposing is to develop an interim committee to look at public and behavioral health issues throughout rural Nevada," he said.
He said they're hoping to open a community triage center in Silver Springs next year "so that law enforcement doesn't have to take alcohol problems or mental health problems to jail."
Page said that will be a 184-bed facility.
"We need to get people into the places they need to be so we can stop criminalizing their behavior instead of kicking the can down the road," Page said.
Furlong said it doesn't serve the mentally ill or the community to deal with those patients in the most expensive settings — jail or the hospital.
"The goal is to efficiently meet the needs of all so no family or individual feels left out or behind," Furlong said.