New Drop-In Center offers aid to the mentally ill

Southern Nevadans in need of mental health services now have another place to turn to, one created as state officials work to improve treatment options for the mentally ill.

Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services on Friday afternoon held an open house at its new Drop-In Center near Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas. Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, attended the event.

Not only will the center provide a new alternative for those suffering from mental illness, it may also help reduce the number of mentally ill patients crowding emergency rooms across the valley, officials said

There are times when the mentally ill go to the emergency room when it’s not necessarily a crisis, said Ellen Richardson-Adams, deputy administrator for clinical services for the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. “Here, we will connect them with resources.”

A one-time funding source of $50,000 was approved by the state’s Legislature to open the Drop-In Center. It will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s services are free to those who need them.

It has the capacity for up to 75 people, Richardson-Adams said.

Jodie Gerson, outpatient administrator for Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, said the center will offer support groups and various services for clients, like arts and crafts. The center will link those needing mental health services with available providers as well.

“This is really significant,” she said. “It gives (the mentally ill) a chance to get involved. It gives them a sense of community.”

Chelsea Szklany, Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services administrator, said the center is the latest improvement to the agency’s services. Rawson-Neal also has hired several employees, including medical staff, social workers, nurses and psychologists, she said.

Hours may also soon be expanded at what officials are now calling the Rawson-Neal Behavioral Health Clinic, a place on the hospital’s campus for the mentally ill to get urgent care.

People coming to the Drop-In Center for help could be referred to the urgent clinic.

The clinic, which opened in July, is now seeing between 15 to 20 patients a day, Szklany said. It has five people on staff.

State mental health officials are meeting with the Metropolitan Police Department to discuss how law enforcement can divert patients to the clinic instead of local emergency rooms, she said.

Earlier this week, Dr. Dale Carrison, chief of staff and head of emergency services at University Medical Center, said efforts to reduce the number of the mentally ill in local emergency rooms haven’t had any significant effect at UMC. Officials at the public hospital earlier this year declared an “internal disaster” because of the high volume of mental patients brought into UMC’s emergency room.

Carrison said he has quit checking the numbers at his emergency room.

“It’s just a never-ending battle,” he said. “We have to go on. All of us are going to hold mental health patients. I don’t expect anything different.”

Others are more optimistic.

Las Vegas police Capt. Frank Reagan, who runs the Clark County Detention Center and is chairman of the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Coalition, said Nevada normally ranks low in resources in mental health.

“These little victories are efforts to change that,” he said of the opening of the Drop-In Center.

However, he acknowledges more is needed.

“Until we have more funding and have resources available, we really can’t take the next step,” Reagan said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (702) 383-0440, or yamaro@reviewjournal.com.

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