Winnemucca Police Chief Dave Garrison (left) and Humboldt County Undersheriff Kevin Malone (right) discuss recent local mental health trends.
Winnemucca Police Chief Dave Garrison (left) and Humboldt County Undersheriff Kevin Malone (right) discuss recent local mental health trends.
Over 40 community members and professionals attended a recent behavioral health roundtable discussion hosted in Winnemucca to discuss behavioral health trends, needs, solutions and current resources. 

Several community leaders presented observations regarding behavioral health services available in the area, challenges and hopes for the future based on community needs. 

Humboldt General Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Robyn Dunckhorst said the hospital developed a new outpatient behavioral health clinic in January and is still developing its service line and provider base. 

Dunckhorst said the hospital will continuously explore community needs opportunities for a suicide initiative within the hospital, crisis intervention inhouse, etc. 

Dunckhorst said one of the hospital’s biggest challenges currently is locating resources to facilitate patient transfers to behavioral health facilities outside the community and finding facilities that will accept transfers. 

Visiting practitioner Nancy McNaul, Ph.D. said that recruiting high quality mental health providers to a rural area such as Winnemucca can be especially challenging due to low medicaid reimbursement rates.

McNaul said that Winnemucca really needs a psychiatrist, as well as psychologist and other mental health providers to be able to provide care in a timely manner rather than patients waiting days to be treated or transferred, which lowers treatment efficacy. 

Humboldt County Juvenile Services Director Pauline Salla said that telehealth has been critical during the pandemic, but that a return to in-person counseling is imperative. 

Salla recommended that response teams be developed which include clinicians throughout the community who can respond to individuals in crisis and address situations as they occur. 

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Captain Chris Lininger said the jail does not have adequate behavioral health support, especially for individuals who go through detoxing in the jail and would benefit from medically assisted treatment that must be administered by a medicine management clinician. 

Lininger said the jail is currently working to form a partnership with the Track B program to connect with additional resources. 

Clinical and Forensic Psychologist Herbert Coard, Ed.D. said he hopes to help with a solution to help the jail find a provider for medically assisted treatment. 

HGH Wellness Coordinator Billie Lucero reported that overdose cases in female youth have recently increased (mainly over the counter drugs), as well as an increase in overall mental health needs and that patients coming in following substance use are higher than ever. 

The hospital noted an increase in suicidal ideation cases and legal holds in August. 

Winnemucca Police Department Chief Dave Garrison said that the entire shift around behavioral health from when he originally began in law enforcement over 20 years ago is refreshing and continues to move in a positive direction, when some time ago mental health patients were transferred to Reno in the back of a patrol car in handcuffs. 

Garrison said he would also like to see a team formed locally that could assist with mental health calls as officers showing up in uniforms and armed can cause behavioral health crisis situations to end badly. 

Garrison said another opportunity in the community continues to be case management of individuals who need services but also need help navigating the channels to obtain the necessary services. 

Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Michael Montero presented information regarding the specialty court programs and said the programs help many receive the help they need, but since it is through a court order initiated by the criminal justice system, the services are limited to the criminal population, with the exception of the family treatment program. 

Montero said that Pretrial Services Program Manager Denni Byrd has been an integral part in case management for individuals who are on pretrial services and need to sign up for services throughout the community but need help. 

Rural regional health coordinator Valerie Haskin, MA, MPH said that she hopes to have more county-level behavioral health data available and that there has been an increase in substance use and mental illness since the pandemic began over a year ago. 

“Intentional overdoses continues to be the primary method of attempted suicide, and is rising,” said Haskin.