ELKO – Mental health resources and early intervention are just two of the items Republican attorney general candidate Wes Duncan is looking at to try and ease the burden on law enforcement.
Visiting Elko on Tuesday, Duncan said he discussed “some of the deficit in mental health resources” in rural Nevada with members of the Elko County Sheriff’s Department and Elko Police Department.
“I think there’s a place for the Attorney General’s office to try to help with resources,” Duncan said. “I think it’s especially pronounced here in some of the rurals because there is no access.”
One concept Duncan explained is mobile outreach safety teams, or MOST, that would identify mental health calls apart from criminal calls with a staffed social worker or clinical psychiatrist working within the sheriff’s department or police department.
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“For those who aren’t committing a crime, they either go to a regular ER — which isn’t the right place for them — or if there is some crime nexus, they will go to jail and that’s also not the greatest place for them either,” Duncan said.
Instead, the MOST teams work with mental health subjects “who find themselves bouncing in and out of the criminal justice system because of mental illness,” Duncan said. The program also reduces “the revolving door of people who continue to go back into the criminal justice system.”
Currently, MOST is in place in Carson City, Lyon and Washoe counties, he said.
Duncan said he is also interested in bringing a rural-styled behavioral health facility, or psychiatric ER, to Elko County in a form like the Mallory Behavioral Health Crisis Center in western Nevada.
In-patient treatment and stabilization could also help law enforcement get back on the streets quicker because they would not be transporting people to the hospital or jail, Duncan said.
Duncan praised the School Resource Officer program that creates “a rapport and relationship” and among students and local deputies and officers.
“I think Elko is a good model for the rest of the state because they have a memorandum of understanding between the Elko County Sheriff’s office and also the police department in providing officers to be there for school safety and for early intervention,” he said.
Duncan said the he believed increasing SROs is something “the state could explore,” but added that having more early intervention resources for mental health and domestic violence would reduce crime.
On the legalization of marijuana, Duncan said law enforcement voiced concerns to him about substance abuse increasing crime, especially in youth, pointing to evidence from Colorado that shows “the youth rate of drug use has increased.”
“States that have legalized marijuana have seen an increase of youth drug rates and drugged driving as well,” Duncan said. “We’ll continue to see how that unfolds for our state.”
Other priorities Duncan said he would work on are domestic violence and “just general crime prevention in the state” and “tackle these problems on the front end.”
“I want to be very proactive on these issues,” Duncan said, explaining that to achieve crime prevention he would aim to “partner law enforcement with the health care community, faith community, and with for-profit and nonprofit business.”
“Maybe we need afterschool programming or a job skills training gap,” he said.
Duncan said he “is unrivaled in this race” when it comes to experience. He was an Air Force Judge Advocate at Nellis Air Force Base. He also served in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. Upon returning to Nevada, he was elected to the Assembly in 2012 before being asked to become the first assistant attorney general under Adam Laxalt two years later.
Duncan said because “public service runs deep for me,” his understanding and familiarity with the courts as a prosecutor, in the Legislature and the office of Attorney General will serve him well leading the state’s law enforcement agency.
“I know exactly what this job entails and have the passion and the vision to go implement it,” Duncan said, adding that he knows the question he will be faced with after Election Day.
“Come January 2019, when I’m sworn in Attorney General, [it will be] how can we hit the ground running to try to come alongside law enforcement to try to make our community and our state a safer place?”