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Nevada Assemblyman C.H. Miller proposes state lottery to pay for more youth mental health services

A close-up image of the exterior of the Nevada State Legislature building.
Jana Sayson
KUNR Public Radio

North Las Vegas Assemblyman C.H. Miller has proposed creating a Nevada lottery to pay for state investments in youth mental health.

Miller struggled with his own mental health growing up. Now, he wants to provide more services to help kids across the Silver State.

“I was fortunate in that my parents had medical insurance and the means to get me the mental health support that I needed, but that’s not the case for everyone,” Miller said. “If the state is intentional about funding youth mental health and bolstering the resources that are available to everyone regardless of their zip code or their parents’ means, it’s just going to be better for the state.”

On Thursday, he proposed to amend the state constitution to do just that, as the Nevada Constitution currently bans state lotteries. Throughout Nevada’s history, there have been more than 24 attempts to create a lottery; however, the state’s powerful gambling industry has traditionally opposed the idea.

Miller’s plan is to pass the amendment through both the 2023 and 2025 legislative sessions before sending it to voters in 2026.

Robin Reedy, the executive director of the Nevada chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, said there are some very specific areas of need for Nevada’s youth.

“We still have a problem of having a shortage of beds for youth in this state. But even worse, the beds we do have aren’t being maximized because we have a shortage of caretakers for people in that bed,” she shared.

She also advocated for investing in youth crisis and wraparound services with the possible money, but she was also quick to say that Nevada’s youth need help now, not just in 2026.

Nevada ranked last in national nonprofit Mental Health America’s 2022 youth state rankings based on its relative prevalence of youth mental illness and its low rates of access to care.

Also, last week, the Washoe County School District approved a pilot program with an outside mental health treatment company to provide services to its students.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Corrected: February 22, 2023 at 5:32 PM PST
This story originally aired on KUNR FM on Tuesday, February 21, with incorrect years for the legislative sessions. This digital story has been updated.
Jose Davila IV is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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