At the League of Women Voters of Southern Nevada annual planning meeting on August 3, 2019, we discussed the intersection between mental health care, education policy, addressing homelessness, and criminal justice reform. We arrived at the need to approach solutions through this intersection based on the work of the LWVSN Behavioral and Mental Health Committee.
Over the past two years, the committee has been studying how to improve Nevada’s behavioral and mental health systems. Through this investigation we’ve heard from many community groups and state agency representatives and we’ve concluded: We cannot fully address the vast deficiencies in Nevada’s mental and behavioral health systems in isolation from other vitally important social issues.
In response to these and other findings, the League of Women Voters of Nevada adopted an Advocacy During the Interim program at the July 20th state convention to fully engage our members and community partners in advocacy before the next legislative session. But because most Nevadans are unaware that legislative committees meet during the interim to hear testimony, review reports and data, and work on recommendations for the next legislative session, we will be putting out a guide for engagement.
The interim committee structure includes all the components needed to help us craft our legislative agenda for the 2021 session, including posted agenda, public comment opportunities, and in-person, live-streaming, and archived recordings as viewing options.
If you are interested in joining in our interim advocacy efforts, please review the Advocacy During the Interim description on our blog and use the embedded Google Form to sign-up https://lwvnvblog.org/2019/07/24/lwvn-launches-advocacy-during-the-interim/
Our planning meeting presenters included attorney and ACLU board member Lisa Rasmussen, who represents clients with mental health needs. Because Nevada suffers from a severe shortage of mental health providers and treatment options, avenues for early interventions and preventative care are virtually absent, so Lisa spoke to us about how afflicted individuals have been pulled into the criminal justice system. It was heartbreaking to hear about our fellow Nevadans being tracked into the criminal justice system; if any of these community members were being tracked into prison due to a cancer diagnosis we’d be wildly outraged over the inhumanity. Read more about the ACLU Smart Justice program here: https://www.aclu.org/issues/smart-justice
We also heard from Judge Michael Villani and Public Defender Erika Ballou from the Eighth Judicial District Court Jury Improvement Committee who provided information about the importance of jury service. Every accused community member deserves a jury of their peers, so we must answer our jury summons and help our friends and neighbors understand the purpose of the constitutional right to have a jury hear and judge evidence presented to show guilt of a crime. Read more here: http://www.clarkcountycourts.us/district-court-chief-judge-issues-administrative-order-that-establishes-jury-services-committee-to-examine-jury-process/
And finally, we heard from Emily Paulsen from the Nevada Homeless Alliance about the organization’s efforts to address homelessness as a constellation of compounding issues. The Alliance understands that mental illness can be both a cause and symptom of homelessness, and similarly, addiction can be both a cause and symptom of mental illness. Consequently, if we hope to address homelessness, we must simultaneously address mental health care, addiction, job training, and the availability of affordable housing. Read more here: https://nevadahomelessalliance.org/
Working together to make things better.