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Nevada gets grant to help rural police handle mental health-related calls

Helmsley Charitable Trust

The pandemic revealed how many law enforcement calls could benefit from a mental health response instead. 

Nevada recently received a $3.8 million grant to fund a pilot program assisting law enforcement with the option of calling on mental health professionals. 

The pilot program in Nevada will begin with 11 mostly rural law enforcement agencies, like the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and Elko and Mesquite police departments. 

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Law enforcement will carry tablets to directly connect with licensed mental health professionals. 

The program is funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust. 

Mitch Krebs is the program director for the charity’s rural health care program, which started in South Dakota. Krebs said this ultimately makes sure the person is crisis gets an appropriate response. 

"These are very complicated, tricky situations. There’s lots of reasons why people are in crisis, whether it’s psychosis, diagnosed behavior or substance use that exacerbates things. You don’t really know until you ask a wide variety of questions and dig deep to find out why that person is in crisis, far beyond the few questions a law enforcement officer would traditionally ask to why that person is in crisis in the first place," he said. 

He continued, "That’s important for the person, it’s important for law enforcement, because that person has a trained back up that’s making those decisions. To make sure that no mistakes are made and that person has the best outcome possible."

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If proven successful, the program could expand to other law enforcement agencies in Nevada.

The departments participating in the program are:

  • Carson City Sheriff’s Office
  • Eureka County Sheriff’s Office
  • Elko Police Department
  • Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lander County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office
  • Mesquite Police Department
  • Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
  • West Wendover Police Department
  • White Pine County Sheriff’s Office
  • Winnemucca Police Department
Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.