Top headlines from the Board of County Commissioners Meeting

by | Jan 23, 2024

The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:     

1. Board approves funding for two new positions dedicated to behavioral health and opioid settlement funds: At the October 23, 2023, Strategic Planning Meeting, the Board of County Commissioners prioritized mental and behavioral health and directed staff to hire a full-time employee and support position responsible for serving in a collaborative leadership role focusing on regional behavioral health. Today the Board approved the creation of a Behavioral Health Administrator position, which will be responsible for the mapping and implementation of a regional system of care for Mental Health services in Washoe County. The position will work with county departments, community providers, and the State of Nevada to define gaps in service, develop strategies for securing facilities and programs, and develop a legislative plan for funding.

In another action, the Board approved the creation of a new position in the Community Reinvestment division to manage opioid settlement funds and ensure that they are allocated to qualified programs that treat or support those affected by opioid use disorder. Washoe County has received funds from numerous settlements in opioid litigation, in cooperation with the State of Nevada’s One Nevada Agreement, and this Grants and Community Program Analyst position will be entirely funded by opioid settlement funds.  

2. Board approves grant to provide beds in CrossRoads program for STAR graduates: The Department of Alternative Sentencing is continuing to expand its successful Support in Treatment, Accountability and Recovery (STAR) program. The Board approved a $96,000 grant to provide priority beds in the supportive living program at CrossRoads over a four-year period. The STAR Program was implemented in October 2022 in an effort to provide probationers and pretrial releasees supervised by the Department of Alternative Sentencing (DAS) with the wrap-around support necessary to successfully address foundational causes of opioid use disorder, as well as underlying criminogenic behaviors.

CrossRoads has been in operation since 2010 and is operated by the Washoe County Human Services Agency in partnership with Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada. CrossRoads programming includes access to MAT services, daily on-site alcohol testing and random on-site drug testing, transportation and associated costs with pro-social activities, and basic toiletry needs in a safe, sober living environment. Clients are connected to a variety of services including medical/dental services, housing, volunteerism, budgeting, family planning, trauma informed care, and other supportive services. 

3. Board congratulates graduates of Specialty Courts programs: Judge Kendra Bertschy with the Reno Justice Court presented an overview of the Specialty Courts programs. The Reno Justice Court operates three Specialty Courts: GT Court for young offenders, Court Assistance Program, and DUI Court. Additionally the Second Judicial District Court operates seven Specialty Courts programs for those identified with a substance use, mental health, or co-occurring diagnosis.  

In 2023, Reno Justice Court had 260 active participants, and Judge Bertschy noted that studies show that for every $1 invested in drug courts, taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in criminal justice costs. When added to the savings in health care and other costs, the savings can be as much as $27 for every $1 invested.   

“These courts serve high-risk, high-needs participants with the aim of breaking the cycle of addiction, restoring pro-social behavior and addressing mental health and behavioral needs,” Judge Bertschy said. “Over the years, these courts have also included a focus on commercial exploitation, women in need, domestic violence compliance courts as well. For positive change, participants have been able to reunite with family, provide services to the community, engage in educational endeavors, and attain sustainable employment. Basically Specialty Courts enhance community safety, save money and save lives.”  

Judge Bertschy was joined by two recent graduates of a Specialty Court program, and the Board of County Commissioners congratulated their hard work.   

“Specialty Court changed my life,” program graduate Michael Laird said. “Nothing ever worked for me. No matter how long I had clean, no matter what I did, the structure was never there. CAP (Court Assistance Program) Court gave me the ability to have structure in my life and to help me with that hardest step of recovery that is transitioning. Most people can get clean if you lock them in a room. Transitioning and changing your life is what changes things, and for me, CAP Court was the first time I had anything work in my life like that.”  

4. Community Services Department presents Infrastructure Health Scorecard: Washoe County Community Services Department (CSD) developed a scorecard for more than $2.8 billion in infrastructure such as buildings, roads, parks, sewer, and fleet. The scorecard  assigns grades to infrastructure based on the factors that influence levels of service. Those factors include capacity, condition, funding, future needs, safety, innovation and more. This helps decision-makers to prioritize funding for projects based on immediacy of need and impact to residents and safety.

CSD Division Director Eric Crump and Business Technologist Aaron Smith presented the FY23 Infrastructure Health Scorecard.  

“In general, we should be proud to live in Washoe County,” Smith said. “Our infrastructure scores higher than average in state and national levels, with stormwater and Parks being the exception.” 

The scorecard shows largely positive scores, but notably roads and stormwater face challenges. Stormwater drainage maintenance makes up 25 percent of all the work done in Roads and is funded through fuel tax collections, which is decreasing. Lower revenue from fuel tax means less funding for these projects in the future.  

“We are in a constant battle with Mother Nature who is trying to fill our stormwater ditches and pipes with everything from sediment to shopping carts… Our pipes are reaching the end of their useful life, and we’re seeing more intense localized stormwater events that’s impacting sedimentation,” Smith said.

5. Board approves donations to county programs and departments: The Board of County Commissioners approved the following donations to Washoe County programs and departments:

  • Various items valued around $7,650 and cash donations valued around $14,890 to the Washoe County Human Services Agency Child Protective Services 
  • Various items and donations totaling $2,000 from Second Baptist Church – Community Outreach Ministry to Washoe County Human Services Agency Homelessness Fund to support welfare activities 
  • Various items totaling around $950 and cash donations totaling around $5,700 to the Senior Services Fund

6. Board approves District Special Fund allocation: Commissioner Clara Andriola proposed allocating $30,000 from the District 4 Special Fund to the Community Services Department Planning Division to contract consultants to assess best practices of permitting and development requirements for equine businesses in the Western U.S. The consultant will provide a summary of research, in comparison to Washoe County Code (WCC), that identifies opportunities for potential changes.