Agency offers aid to clients in canceled Salvation Army programs

To some of the clients affected, The Salvation Army's decision to close its mental health programs in the next few weeks means they could again become homeless or fall back into their addictions.

To them, the funding issues that are forcing the nonprofit to shut down a group home for the chronically mentally ill and a semi-independent housing program, mean nothing.

To them, it's the services themselves that can mean the difference between life and death.

But some of the mentally ill and homeless clients who will be displaced might have a place to at least continue therapy.

The Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada offered Wednesday to add 10 to 15 clients to its intensive outpatient program for those who have mental illness and substance abuse problems.

But there's a hitch in the plan. The counseling center needs about $60,000 to hire another staff member to do it. That number is a drop in the bucket compared with the millions of dollars The Salvation Army needs to fill funding gaps that caused the program closures at the Owens Avenue campus, near Main Street, in the first place.

"The cavalry's here," said Ronald Lawrence, the center's executive director. "But it's a stressed cavalry."

His group met with other agencies Wednesday to try to form a plan to absorb the 75 mental health clients who use The Salvation Army's services. That includes getting them into therapy and putting a roof over their heads.

"We look at the depth of each problem," Lawrence said. "How severe is the substance abuse problem, and what type of mental health issues are we looking at?"

Clients in the outpatient program meet five days a week as a group and individually.

The center treats several mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, mood disorders and multiple personality disorder.

"It is crisis mode, but mental health is a communitywide crisis," Lawrence said.

Shelters throughout the Las Vegas Valley can help house the clients, but groups that provide mental health services and resources are dwindling.

Lawrence said what is happening at The Salvation Army points to a larger problem in the mental health care community, a shrinking community safety net that provides resources to the "underserved, underinsured and uninsured."

Nonprofits that specialize in treatment and education such as the Nevada Treatment Center and the Area Health Education of Southern Nevada recently have gone out of business.

"The economy has an awful lot to do with it," Lawrence said. "The donor force has deteriorated because we have so many unemployed people right now. Potential donors are out there trying to survive."

And when it comes to mental health, donations are even harder to come by because it "carries a certain stigma with it," Lawrence added.

"When people get mental health intervention, it helps them keep their jobs, keep their family intact, keeps them safe and stops violence. Mental health is the key to success in the human condition, so to speak."

Salvation Army officials said services that will continue at Owens Avenue campus include the day resource center, vocational programs, children's programs, apartments and meals.

The group feeds 1,200 people per day and houses close to 600 people nightly.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at or 383-0440.