Lack of Resources Blamed for Mental Illness Revolving Door - 8 News NOW

Lack of Resources Blamed for Mental Illness Revolving Door

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LAS VEGAS -- Overcrowding is a serious problem at the Clark County Detention Center.

Right now, about 4,000 inmates are behind bars. So many, that some have had to be sent to other facilities.

Adding to the overcrowding is that fact that almost 1,000 inmates are being treated for some kind of mental illness, ranging from schizophrenia to depression, many are not first-time offenders.

Metro Police says the problem comes down to a lack of mental health resources in southern Nevada.

Once a person is arrested, they are booked into the detention center. If they have a mental illness and did not commit a major crime, they are eventually let back out on the street, only to reoffend.

They are not put into a mental hospital because there is often no room there. Police say they have been battling the same cycle for years.

As inmates wait for court or serve their time, Metro chief Todd Fasulo says treatment begins immediately.

"Because what you find is, you have citizens that get arrested, they come into the jail, they get treated, they get put on some kind of program whether it is a day or they are here for six months," Fasulo said.

Minor offenders are eventually released and offered treatment programs.

However, treatment doesn't always come easy since emergency rooms and mental health hospitals are filled to capacity and many end up right back in jail.

Melody Molinaro, oversees the detention center's healthcare system. She says it is tough because they are not able to provide the level of care that they would like.

"It is very frustrating. We continue to make sure that there is follow-up, but of course the best treatment for the patient is to get them that level of care as immediate as you can and sometimes that is not what we're able to do," Molinaro said.

Law enforcement says some of the more dangerous inmates could spend months at the detention center and cannot be moved into mental health hospitals until rooms become available.

"It is a mental health issue. It is not a criminal issue. They don't belong in jail cells. They belong in mental health facilities. In those beds, where they can get care and be put on a medication regime," Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said, "The solution is that the governor and the Legislature starts funding mental health the way it needs to be funded."

The detention center's medical contract is about $4 million a year and about $2 million of that goes to buying medication.

Currently, court-ordered evaluations, which are conducted in northern Nevada, are backlogged into December.

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