Community agencies work together to curb violence

By Sandra Chereb

When someone is in crisis, it’s scary and overwhelming for those suffering immediate anguish. For family members and others around them, it can be terrifying.

What to do? Who to call for help?

Partnership Carson City, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting people in need with health and behavioral professionals, says the first line of defense is, “See something, say something.”

The goal is to try to prevent mental health or substance abuse issues from escalating to a point of violence or self-harm.

It’s a strategy embraced throughout the community — by mental health, law enforcement, juvenile justice and school district officials — all of whom are working in concert to intervene before a situation gets out of hand.

“If a family member doesn’t know where to turn, they can come here and we can help them navigate services,” said Hannah McDonald, Partnership Carson City executive director.

The connection between mental health and violence is raw following the mass shooting at a Florida high school in February that left 17 people dead. Most of the victims were teenagers. The confessed, 19-year- old gunman has been described as a troubled youth who exhibited erratic and violent behavior. Though people concerned about his behavior called various law-enforcement agencies in the weeks and months before the shooting, some reports fell through the cracks while others were not verified. Those agencies are now conducting internal reviews into what went wrong.

Carson City has not been immune to the heartache of mass shootings. In September 2011, a gunman opened fire on Nevada National Guard members having breakfast at an IHOP restaurant. Four people were killed and seven wounded. The gunman, who had a history of mental illness, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

It’s a nightmare scenario Carson City officials hope never to relive.

Law enforcement

Bekah Bock is a social worker with the Division of of Public and Behavioral Health on the front lines of trying to get help to those in need. Bock is an integral member of the Carson City Sheriff’s Office Mobile Outreach and Safety Team, known as MOST. Three days a week, she rides with deputies responding to calls or making follow-up visits. She also fills in when needed in Lyon County.

The team is tasked with trying to mitigate situations by helping people get into treatment.

“I think there’s a misconception that people with mental illness are violent,” Bock said. I think people with mental illness are more victims of exploitation than violent.”

The program gets calls from people in the community, agencies and family members who have questions or want help understanding the mental health system.

“It’s very rare that people do not invite us in” when the team makes a visit, she said.

“Initially they see the uniform. They say, ‘What’s happened? What’s wrong?’”

“There’s rarely a time they say they don’t need help,” she said.

The program gets calls from people in the community, agencies and family members who have questions or want help understanding the mental health system.

Juvenile justice

The model has also been adopted for dealing with juveniles under an effort referred to as JJASTT — Juvenile Justice Assessment Screening Triage Team.

“Mental health and trauma starts at a young age,” said Ali Banister, Carson City’s chief of juvenile services. “We need to deal with these kids; need to recognize what’s going on at a young age. “We need to program the services when they’re little guys because if not it’s only going to get worse,” she said.

Research shows students arrested are twice as likely not to graduate from high school. The odds double for those processed through the courts.

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, 90 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to a traumatic event, while 70 percent of a mental health disorder.

In Carson City, 75 percent of youth in detention have a mental health disorder and suffered trauma.

Youths are assigned to the team either through referral or if they are taken into custody. Cases are assigned to a juvenile probation officer, who works with a mental health professional to assess the youth’s needs and develop a treatment path.

“We see a lot of different things. A lot of times it is abuse and neglect,” Banister said. “Maybe domestic abuse in the home; maybe an ugly divorce.”

The ultimate goal is to stop a downward spiral that too often leads to more crime and adult prison.


Throughout the Carson City School District, students are encouraged to reach out — to an administrator, teacher, counselor or another trusted adult, if they see or hear something unsettling or feel threatened.

“There are posters at all our schools,” said Ann Cyr, risk manager for the school district. “Posters that tell kids what to do if someone hurts them or they feel bullied.”

Schools also have a Secret Witness hotline, where students can leave tips anonymously.

“I would say the most common method of a student reporting a perceived threat is sharing it with a trusted adult,” Cyr said.

The state Department of Education is also implementing the SafeVoice Nevada program that was authorized by the 2015 Legislature. The program sets up a statewide system for the anonymous reporting of dangerous, violent or unlawful activity threatened or being conducted on school property, buses, or at school-sponsored activities.

People will be able to make reports with a mobile app, through a website or by phone.

About half the schools in the state are using the SafeVoice system. The rest of the state, including Carson City, will receive materials and training by summer to implement the program, a Department of Education spokesman said.

Connecting dots

Once a month, representatives of service groups, medical, mental health, law enforcement and school district professionals meet to discuss needs affecting the community.

The Carson City Behavioral Task Force focuses on myriad aspects and talk about “challenges and barriers that different organizations are experiencing,” McDonald said.

It’s a way for those on the front lines to stay attuned with each other and those they are trying to help, whether the needs are food and housing, mental health programs or a new way to address an underserved population, McDonald said.

Who to call
Partnership Carson City – 775-841- 4730
Mobile Outreach and Safety Team (MOST) – 775-350- 5118
Mallory Behavior Health Crisis Center – 775-445- 8889
National Alliance on Mental Illness-Nevada – 775-470- 5600
Ron Wood Family Resource Center – 775-884- 2269
Carson City Community Counseling Center – 775-882- 3945
Friends in Service Helping (FISH) – 775-882- 3474

2018-03-09T14:32:50+00:00 March 9th, 2018|Front Page News, News|