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Timely treatment of mentally ill inmates sought through court

In its ongoing effort to get needed treatment for mentally ill inmates, the Clark County public defender’s office last week filed District Court motions to expedite action.

At least a dozen motions were filed Thursday and Friday requesting orders to show cause in cases involving mentally ill inmates who have been awaiting transport to a treatment facility for at least seven days. The orders seek to have a judge hold the state in contempt for violating the terms of a 2014 federal lawsuit settlement.

As of Sept. 1, the settlement requires Nevada to provide court-ordered psychiatric treatment to inmates within seven days of the order. Lake’s Crossing Center in Sparks is the state’s only maximum-security psychiatric facility that evaluates and treats offenders to restore their competency. The facility has dealt with chronic overcrowding for more than a decade.

The solution is in the state’s hands, said Clark County Deputy Public Defender Christy Craig.

“They are the only ones that can increase capacity,” Craig said Thursday.

As of late Friday, the motions for an order to show cause were tentatively scheduled to be heard Sept. 18 by District Judge Jennifer Togliatti, who hears competency cases.

While a state official Friday said the state was in compliance with the federal lawsuit settlement, the motions request a “contempt hearing in this matter” because of the state’s “failure” to follow the settlement.

In July, the Clark County public defender’s office filed dozens of motions to dismiss charges against mentally ill inmates who have been jailed for weeks or even months while waiting to be transferred to Lake’s Crossing. The charges range from battery to murder. The motions to dismiss were heard by various judges who claimed they lacked authority to hear them.

The motions filed Thursday and Friday involve some of those same inmates.

Dr. Tracey Green, the state’s chief medical officer, said: “I think the important thing is that we are complying with our consent decree.” She added that the state has implemented other measures as well.

Green later acknowledged the state is not meeting the time frame for treatment required under the settlement.

“We are continuing to follow the consent decree in order to come into compliance with the seven days,” she said Friday. “That is our intent with those measures.”

Under the settlement, the state initially had to provide treatment to mentally ill offenders within 21 days, as of 60 days after the effective date of the settlement. That time frame decreased to 14 days a year later. On Sept. 1, it decreased to seven days.

State officials plan to expand services by opening Stein Hospital in Las Vegas, which will provide the same services as Lake’s Crossing. Green said the 47-bed facility will open in mid-November.

State officials also have enacted various measures such as assisting with ground transportation and adding 22 beds at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.

“We are doing everything we can to facilitate the movement of clients more rapidly,” Green said.

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

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