Addiction, Houselessness, & Mental Health in Nevada

In 2016, 22 houseless individuals died in Washoe County, according to an article by ThisIsReno.com. Of those deaths, 11 were categorized as accidents and seven as natural.

“Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada (ACTIONN), RISE and other concerned groups are advocating for a ‘safeground’ so that houseless/homeless individuals, families and children can live in a stable place that will give them access to sanitation, services and police protection which respects their civil rights,” [said Mike Thornton of ACTIONN, which advocates for low-income and homeless individuals]. “We are also advocating to stop the criminalization of houselessness/homelessness and poverty so that people are not forced to hide, and perhaps put themselves in life threatening situations.”

A leading cause of houselessness is untreated and inconsistently treated mental health problems.

Nevada has long struggled to provide residents with adequate mental health care, and with proposed budget cuts of $20 million according to an article from the Reno Gazette-Journal on the 2017 budget, mental health and addiction specialists are concerned.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed slashing the state’s chronically underfunded mental health budget by $20 million– including eliminating 112 positions statewide– arguing that the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act means more mentally ill clients can find care in private hospitals.

But advocates for the mentally ill say even with Medicaid coverage, patients have difficulty accessing private care in Reno, citing a shortage in psychiatrists in private practice, too-few psychiatrists accepting new patients and a shortage of in-patient treatment beds.

Even more troubling for them is the prospect that Congress has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which means all of the mentally ill clients who now have insurance under Medicaid could lose coverage at the same time the state is shrinking a key safety net.

Read about what it’s like to be houseless in Reno in the Reno News & Review‘s ‘8 things you didn’t know about being homeless in Reno,’ published 1/3/13.

Click here to see how you can support efforts in Northern Nevada to advocate for houseless individuals in our community.