83°F
weather icon Clear

Inside Nevada’s newest facility for mentally ill offenders — PHOTOS

Bashar Abualhajii sits in a locked control room equipped with monitors, watching every move in the facility. 

Red tape marks part of the floor in units A and B inside the building. No one is allowed to go past the red lines unless permission is sought and granted.

Within the lines, a group of mostly men wearing orange scrubs play a dice game as part of their recreational therapy. One man in blue scrubs with the letters "CCDC" on the back watches them with no expression on his face.

A woman in the second unit covers her face with her hands as she rocks herself back and forth.

Abualhajii isn't the only one keeping an eye on the court-ordered patients. So is the staff interacting with them.

"We really want to be with them at all times," said Jo Malay, administrator for Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, which houses the recently opened Stein Forensic Unit.

As of Tuesday, 12 court-ordered patients were receiving treatment at the maximum-security psychiatric facility to restore their competency to proceed with their criminal cases. But 67 more from across the state waited in jails for the same treatment. Thirty-six of them were in Clark County.

State officials had a proposal due in federal court on Nov. 30 to show how they will comply with a 2014 federal lawsuit settlement requiring the state to provide treatment to mentally ill offenders within seven days. Clark County public defender's office officials are working with the state to file a modified version of the settlement by Dec. 7, according to court documents.

For decades, the 86-bed Lake's Crossing Center in Sparks operated as the sole facility of its kind in the Silver State. In recent years, demand has outpaced the number of beds at the facility, leaving many languishing in jails throughout the state.

On Nov. 19, Stein became the state's second facility to treat mentally ill offenders. It opened with six patients, and it's now treating 12.

The new facility will be funded over the next two years with $12.5 million approved in the spring by state lawmakers to ease the pressure on Lake's Crossing and help decrease the backlog of offenders waiting to be treated.

Unit D inside Stein is slated to open next. The facility is expected to be fully operational with 47 beds by February.

Another 20 forensic beds at Rawson-Neal were also set aside for court-ordered patients, and 17 were being treated there as of Tuesday.

Stein will primarily serve mentally ill offenders from Clark County, but state officials will continue to transport some of them to Lake's Crossing, said Cody Phinney, administrator for the state's Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

"We see the need for this kind of population to continue," Malay added.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3843. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST