Rural mental health services pilot program launches in Elko

By: - August 28, 2023 2:43 pm

Nevada ranks poorly in several mental health care measures, and the shortcomings are even more stark outside of the state's metro areas. (Getty Images)

A new pilot program federally funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) aims to provide crisis mental health services to families and youth in the Elko area. 

The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) oversees the free Mobile Crisis Team program, which includes two teams of a psychiatric case worker and a consumer service assistant, which connect families to resources, provide peer support, and coordinate virtual counseling sessions with a licensed mental health professional.  

“This is such a wonderful opportunity for the Elko community to be able to pilot in-person crisis services for youth and families,” said Michelle Sandoval, program manager for the Rural Mobile Crisis Response Team (RMCRT), in a release. “Every member of the team is specially trained in responding to youth crises. If the pilot program is successful in Elko the hope is to expand in-person crisis response to more rural communities across Nevada.”

Nevada has long struggled with behavioral and mental health care access — all counties in the state are federally designated mental health provider shortage areas. The state ranks last in the nation for mental health metrics like access to care and high prevalence of mental illness. And it ranks second in the Mountain West region in mental health workforce staffing, with only one professional to every 460 people, according to a report by the UNLV Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute. 

Those shortcomings are exacerbated in rural Nevada. In 2020, only one psychiatrist out of the state’s 286 licensed psychiatrists worked outside a metro area,, according to the Rural Nevada Children’s Mental Health Consortium Annual Report by DPBH. 

That report notes multiple barriers to care in rural Nevada, including distances from health care facilities, higher rates of being uninsured or under-insured, limited access to in-patient care and residential centers, healthcare provider shortages, and the closure of a psychiatric inpatient facility in Washoe County that served children in crisis throughout much of rural Nevada. 

RMCRT helps children and families of children under 18 years of age who show signs of behavioral or mental health issues including self-injury, anger, bullying, depression, and anxiety.

The hope is to keep children with their families during a crisis when appropriate, reduce emergency department visits, and facilitate short-term in-patient psychiatric hospitalization when necessary for youth in the Elko, Spring Creek, and surrounding areas.

The program received $572,381 in ARPA funding which lasts through December 2024.

To access the RMCRT hotline, including the in-person Elko Teams, call 702-486-7865.

This story was updated to include the amount of funding and the end date of that funding. 

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Camalot Todd
Camalot Todd

An award-winning, investigative and enterprise reporter, Camalot Todd has over seven years experience in print, digital, radio and TV journalism.