Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2014

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Court seeking state-county partnership to conduct mental tests

A Clark County judge is asking for help from the state in performing psychological evaluations for the courts.

District Judge Jackie Glass isn't asking for any special treatment. Instead, she is simply seeking the same treatment District Court in Washoe County has received from the state Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services since 1999.

The state agency, the court and the Washoe County jail have partnered to allow Washoe County to use doctors from state agencies to conduct an array of psychological exams.

Washoe County District Court Administrator Ron Longtin estimated that the county's cost is much less than when hiring private practitioners.

Glass, who oversees the administration of Clark County's Mental Health Court, wants the same partnership established here.

Since the county conducts 1,100 competency evaluations a year, she said, the need is obvious. Washoe County had 760 such exams in 2005.

That number includes not just competency evaluations, but also risk assessments, substance abuse evaluations, criminal responsibility assessments and others requested by the court.

Glass hopes Clark County can initially receive at least one psychologist from the Mental Health Division to assist in competency hearings, but the Legislature will have to approve such a move.

Glass also wants a forensic residency program established at the county jail. Students from the University of Nevada School of Medicine would then be able to conduct evaluations under the supervision of doctors already employed by the jail.

A similar program is in place at Washoe County Jail.

Glass said Dr. Carlos Brandenburg, director of Nevada's Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, was "receptive and amenable" to these ideas at a meeting last month.

"I'm very optimistic that the seeds have been planted and all of this will come to fruition for us here in Clark County," Glass said.

"I have to compliment Washoe County for getting creative by entering into these partnerships, and now it's time for us to catch up and reap the same benefits."

Calls made by the Sun to Brandenburg seeking comment were not returned Tuesday.

Glass has also approached the medical school about faculty members providing psychological evaluations for civil commitment hearings, too.

A similar program has been utilized in Washoe County.

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