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Clark County gets a reality check for Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Today, May 7, is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website has a list of silver-lining suggestions for observance, such as participating in the social media #HeroesofHope campaign or hosting a Text, Talk, Act event at a local high school. In Carson City, First Lady Katherine Sandoval is speaking at the annual children’s mental-health summit, which will focus this year on connecting the dots between disparate agencies and services in a coordinated response to kids in crisis.

Here in Clark County, the Children’s Mental Health Consortium chose to mark the occasion with the release of its 2015 Status Report. The decidedly unfestive announcement reveals that, halfway through a 10-year plan to make effective behavioral-health services readily available to children and their families, the powers that be still have a long way to go.

“Nevada lags significantly behind other states in providing adequate support for children’s mental-health services,” the consortium says. Despite a dismal Mental Health America ranking — dead last in the nation — the state made some improvements in the past year, in particular the expansion of a mobile crisis-response team meant to keep kids out of ERs and psychiatric hospitals. CCSD also created a special team to help students transition from mental-health treatment back into school.

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Still, the consortium acknowledges, much work remains to be done. SAMHSA’s 2014 Behavioral Health Barometer showed Nevada’s 12-to-17-year-olds suffer major depressive episodes at about the same rate as the national average, nearly 10 percent of the total population. However, only 30 percent of the kids suffering those episodes get treatment in our state.

A sad coincidence drove the point home earlier this week, when a 14-year-old Henderson girl apparently committed suicide at Coronado High School. Considering that Nevada’s youth suicide rate (11 percent of people age 15 to 24) trends above national averages — and that suicide is directly linked to diagnosable mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders — some serious local awareness-raising is clearly in order. Bring on the hashtag campaigns and texting rallies!

Behind the buzz, though, is the central question Nevada citizens should be asking their in-session legislators today: Will the government fund the programs the consortium says it needs to solve our community’s mental-health problem? And if not, what’s the alternative?

Families with youth in crisis can contact the Southern Nevada Mobile Crisis Response Team at 702-486-7865

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