Tag Archives: Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health

We’re the worst? Nevada is the Least Safe State

We could be doing a little better than this:

“Among the things that led to Nevada’s dismal overall status were a 47th ranking for “murder and non-negligent manslaughter per capita,” 47th for “public hospital rankings,” 43rd for “percentage of population without health insurance coverage,” 31st for “employer health insurance coverage rates” and 47th for “assault per capita.”

Piled on these were poor financial rankings for Nevada: 49th for “annual consumer savings account averages” and 50th for “percentage of people who spend more than they make.”  [Full story RGJ]

So, in terms of overall financial safety, Nevada ranks 50th — only Mississippi ranks lower; and in the home and community safety column we’re ranked 49th, with only Tennessee ranked below us.  [WalletHub]

We didn’t make the infamous top ten rankings in “aggregate state rankings in gun violence outcomes,” but we are sitting at number 12. [CAP pdf] We were 9th in national rankings of firearm deaths (2010), and if we extend the time period to 2001-2010 Nevada climbs into 5th place. [CAP pdf]

In short, having relatively lax gun safety statutes and regulations, and being in proximity to other states with lax statutes and regulations isn’t going to produce happy outcomes in regard to overall firearm deaths by accident, suicide, negligence, or homicide.

Our recent example of gun violence in Las Vegas should be perceived as yet another reminder that radicalized gun enthusiasts with access to copious amounts of firearms and ammunition isn’t a recipe for reducing our crime rate and raising the level of public safety.

If we would reduce the level of gun violence, there are some things that work.  No, they aren’t going to stop ALL or each instance of it, but they do help bring down the unfortunate statistics.

#1. Enact universal background checks for all gun sales.  At the risk of redundancy, Nevada proscribes arms sales to felons, fugitives, juveniles without adult supervision, undocumented aliens, and the seriously mentally ill. Arms may also be proscribed for those who have been involved in domestic violence incidents.  It would help our law enforcement officials if we were more careful to insure that people in these classifications do not acquire their own arsenals.

#2. Limit the ammunition capacity.  Seriously, if a person hasn’t shot the home intruder with ten rounds, what makes anyone think the next 20 would do more than merely shoot up the house? In at least two highly publicized instances the shooter has been apprehended while trying to reload.

There’s another element which deserves some consideration — Nevada ranks in the upper half of national suicide statistics, with a 20.3 rate. And, we know that of the four categorized methods, firearms are used most often (50.5%). [AFSP] [CDC] To see firearms as strictly related to “crime” statistics is to miss a significant portion of the public health and safety issues associated with the profusion of firearms.

The risk factors for suicides are well documented: family history, child abuse, previous attempts, personal history of mental disorders or clinical depression, history of alcohol or substance abuse.. [CDC] However, while we’ve put a great deal of effort into studying suicide, rather less has been done to research protective measures. This is not to say we don’t have a grasp of what works to prevent suicides. Easy access to clinical care for physical, mental, and substance abuse disorders mitigates the problem, as does having a variety of clinical interventions and the provision of support for those seeking help.

Individuals with family/community support, access to medical care relationships, and those who have been provided with assistance or training in problem solving, conflict resolution, and non-violent means of dealing with disputes, also are less likely to commit suicide.

If we’re serious about reducing this element of insecurity in Nevada there are measures we could take ‘for starters’.

#1. Enhance and improve the capacity of Nevada’s Drug Courts.  We currently have 17 adult drug courts in the state [NVJud] among the specialty courts available.  Each and every specialty court should be able to function secure in the knowledge that the rehabilitation services it mandates are readily available for those those come through the system.

#2. Improve the level of staffing and support services in our mental health system.  Unfortunately, information regarding current levels of support and regional availability of services is difficult to access because the State Division of Public and Behavioral Health is still trying to get its website up and running — a project which it estimates will take three to six months. (The old links aren’t working today.)

Adopting any, or as could be hoped, of all four suggestions will take some political leadership, and a bit of readjustment in how we perceive and deal with our fellow citizens.

First, it would be helpful if we could expand the discussion of firearm safety beyond the tortured logic of “freedom” or other generic complaints about governance and see the proliferation of firearms as a public health issue. Secondly, once we can visualize aspects of firearm safety as an element of public health then we can begin to address subordinate issues such as keeping firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves and others, and of restraining the amount of damage a troubled person might be able to do.

Further, if we can reform and improve our delivery of social and mental health services we might see the reduction in the kinds of behaviors which augment our unfortunate statistics.  Social and mental health services are labor intensive, and there are no convenient technological answers to issues involving human beings and their behavior.  Money doesn’t solve mental health problems, but it does build and staff those facilities which can alleviate the suffering which accompanies disorders and substance abuse problems.

In short, we will get what we are willing to pay for.

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