Mental Health Services for Gambling Addiction Supported by Nevada Senators
November 9, 2014 – At a presentation on Gambling History in Las Vegas, Nevada Senators Ford and Townsend promised to pursue help in providing healthcare services for gambling addiction.
“ There’s no wrong door Bea.” This is what ran through my mind when Nevada Senator Aaron Ford called me earlier this year asking if I would be a part of the Gambling Panel for the “British American Project.”
It’s a phrase I often use when called upon to speak about problem gambling or to serve those impacted by gambling addiction.
The woman credited with this phrase was a pioneer in advocacy for problem gambling services, Dr. Rena Nora ncpgambling.org/files/public/DrNora_Pioneer.pdf While I never met this much beloved woman, I am honored to be a benefactor of Dr. Nora’s wisdom by way of her mentee Carol O’Hare of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling nevadacouncil.org, and her daughter Judge Cheryl Moss , both inspiring champions of the cause, who carry the torch that Dr. Nora ignited.
When asked to speak I answered “Absolutely,” even though I knew little about “the British American Project” or what their interest was in Gambling and Gambling Addiction.
There was a “Knock.” I answered….and the door swung WIDE OPEN as Senator Ford publicly committed that he and Senator Townsend could and would advance the ball in assuring equal services are made available for Nevadans struggling with a gambling addiction!
I have since learned that the British-American Project (http://www.britishamericanproject.org/aboutbap.asp) Is “a transatlantic fellowship of over 1,000 leaders, rising stars and opinion formers from a broad spectrum of occupations, backgrounds and political views. It is a network rich in a diversity of people who have, or are likely to, achieve distinction in their field.”
Senator Ford fordfornevada.com moderated the “Gambling in Las Vegas: Winners and Losers” presentation. My fellow panelists included Nevada Gaming Commission member Senator Randolph Townsend (http://gaming.nv.gov/index.aspx?page=213) and Mr. Dan Shapiro, Director of Business Development for Nevada’s sports betting leader, William Hill U.S.
As attendees came from across the United States and the UK to the “Adult Disneyland” that is Las Vegas, I anticipated maybe 20 of the 150 delegates would attend an early Sunday morning presentation. Not so with the British-American Project attendees. These thought-leaders were present, interested and focused!
We enjoyed lively discussion as Senator Townsend shared a rich history of his 30 years experience in the Nevada Senate, peppered with engaging stories of Las Vegas’ evolution, from the early “Mob” and teamster-funded casinos to the Howard Hughes’ era to the Corporate-driven gaming of Nevada today.
Well-known in the UK as THE sports betting gaming company, William Hill’s Dan Shapiro shared a rich history of legalized sports wagering in the US and Nevada in particular. The conversation was lively, the historical perspective engaging, and the audience perspective from across the globe added richness to the experience that assured me that I had crossed through the RIGHT DOOR that morning!
As I spoke of Lanie’s Hope’s mission, I relayed a personal experience of taking a compulsive gambler in crisis to a local hospital for suicidal ideation, only to find that, although this individual’s insurance DID cover treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction, treatment for gambling addiction was NOT COVERED BY INSURANCE. This inequity is at the heart of Lanie’s Hope’s mission.
I assured the audience and my fellow panelists that I have no axe to grind with the Gaming Industry or anyone involved in legal gambling. It is a legitimate form of entertainment for most individuals who can gamble “normally.” Gambling establishments are not responsible for gambling addiction any more than manufacturers of alcoholic beverages are responsible for “creating” alcoholics.
At issue is the moral imperative of assuring treatment services ARE available for the 3 to 5% of Americans whom the American Psychiatric Association recognize as suffering from a mental health behavioral addiction known as a “Gambling Disorder” – or gambling addiction. Beyond the gambler, their families are in need of access to counseling and community support services to rebuild lives destroyed by addiction,
At the conclusion of my presentation, Senator Ford graciously apologized for his whispered asides with Senator Townsend…. and then the DOOR swung wide open!
Senator Ford publicly committed that he and Senator Townsend could and would advance the ball in assuring equal services are made available for those individuals afflicted with a gambling addiction! Senator Townsend’s history in the Nevada Senate and his current service on the Nevada Gaming Commission puts him in a prime position to advance this moral imperative. His service record clearly demonstrates an interest in mental health and healthcare, as he has advanced mental health initiatives for President Bush’s “New Freedom Commission on Mental Health” (2002) and in 2003 introduced a bill creating the “Nevada Mental Health Plan Implementation Committee.”
Senator Ford is a well-respected man of action and accomplishment. Just one week after my presentation, he was tapped as the Minority Leader for the Nevada Senate.
The momentum advanced by Senator Patrick Kennedy’s 2012 Mental Health and Addiction Parity Act coupled with the drive and commitment of these two thought and policy leaders give me more than “Hope” that Lanie’s Hope’s will indeed achieve our vision of “Humanizing and Illuminating the Disease of Compulsive Gambling; assuring that resources, support and treatment are available to the afflicted gambler and their loved ones regardless of their ability to pay.”
I was blessed when I walked through that particular door on an early Sunday morning in November 2014 at the Las Vegas Palms. God clearly orchestrated that particular panel and audience as a convergence of the right people at the right time.
Dr. Nora was right…there truly is “No Wrong Door.”