Ask Paul at the RSIC: Get to know RSIC’s Behavioral Health team |

Ask Paul at the RSIC: Get to know RSIC’s Behavioral Health team

Paul Snyder, MA, LADC-S
Special to First Nation’s Focus
The RSIC's Behavioral Health team has a vision for your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health.
Photo: Shutterstock

EDITOR’S NOTE: The December 2018 Ask Paul column is part one of a two-part column. Next month, Ask Paul will outline the outstanding credentials of the rest of the Behavioral Health Program staff.

RENO, Nev. — I have been writing this article for the last few years about how the Reno Sparks Tribal Health Center Behavioral Health Program might be able to serve you and your family’s needs. The Behavioral Health team has a vision for your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health.

People understand if they have a toothache, they go to the Reno Sparks Tribal Health Center (RSTHC) dentist. If they have problems with their eyes, they go to (RSTHC) optometry. If they need help with their body, they see their (RSTHC) doctor.

Although we have discussed substance use and/or mental health concerns that can be treated in our program, we have not discussed the additional health care and self-wellness reasons to go to the Behavioral Health Department.

In order to do this, we have to explore what services are available and, most importantly, the qualifications and experience of the person and the quality of organization who are providing these services. This article is created to answer these questions as well as give our readers insights into the types and quality of services they deserve to receive.

I’ll start. I’ve been serving the Reno Sparks Indian Colony as a substance use counselor for a few years now. I am a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor-Supervisor. I have a Master’s Degree in Addiction Counseling from Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies. I have experience in residential, intensive outpatient, outpatient, individual and group therapy. I’ve also supervised a woman’s treatment program and am a co-lead for a program with the University of Nevada, Reno that instructs health care providers in optimal treatment care for their patients. Also, I offer an evidence based, certified DUI program for levels II, IIIX, and III, as well as the Red Road to Wellbriety group that offers healing through the Native American Elders wisdom using the Red Road to Wellbriety curriculum.

The reason I gravitated to this specialty is because addiction can be a life and death challenge. Many of the people I serve know people who have died either because of substance use, or substance use was involved in their death. In my training and years of experience, I’ve learned that substance use and addictive behaviors are just a symptom of a deeper problem. Because of this, I begin by providing a complete evaluation of the person’s whole life. This evaluation is essential as it gives myself and this person a place to begin our work. The evaluation is confidential, and is not a label — it just provides us a place to begin our healing process.

It is essential that I work with a group of highly qualified, professional specialists who can provide optimal health care spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally while we are addressing the substance use. With this in mind, I’d like to introduce the Behavioral Health Care staff at the Reno Sparks Tribal Health Center. Please feel free to contact our Behavioral Health Care department, to access any of these services that are culturally specific to your Native American population.

Mary Lask

Mary Lask, MS, LADC-S, is also a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor-Supervisor. She has a Master of Science Degree in Human Development and Family Systems. She is also the supervisor in our Behavioral Health Department.

Mary has recently been appointed to serve as a member of the Board of Examiners for Alcohol, Drug, and Gambling Counselors for the State of Nevada. This appointment by the governor allows Mary to oversee issues related to credentialing and disciplinary actions to assist in the overall improvement of treatment provided within the state.

Mary is enthusiastic toward making sure all alcohol and drug and mental health providers provide consistent, quality programs throughout the state. Mary’s years of experience includes individual, group, adolescents and intensive outpatient treatment. She has been a program coordinator and Medicaid Service Coordinator responsible for providing direct supervision, compliance and discipline.

Mary currently teaches the Life Skills class, which is an evidence-based structured model to ensure optimal outcomes for her Native American clients. This group meets every Wednesday from 9-11 a.m.

Dr. Melinda Edwards

Dr. Melinda Edwards is our psychiatrist. She attended Wofford College in South Carolina and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. She then attended medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina, and did her residency in psychiatry at Stanford Medical Center.

Her work experience includes private practice, working at a county mental health clinic and working at the Veterans Administration. She provides support for patients by doing a thorough initial diagnostic assessment and by providing medication that can help treat patients’ symptoms when needed.

Dr. Edwards follows up with patients to monitor how they are doing with medication, and provides support for patients who are in crises. She works with patients with a wide range of symptoms, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, suicidal thoughts and substance use disorders.

She uses a holistic approach, assessing symptoms and diagnosis while treating and working with the whole person — mind, body, spirit and other aspects of a patient’s life. She loves what she does and is grateful to be working with our Native American population.

Dr. Art Martinez

Dr. Art Martinez is one of our Clinical Psychologists. He is a Native American, of the Chumash tribe. Dr. Art Martinez shares a unique melding of cultural and clinical experiences. In 2015, Dr. Art joined the Children’s Bureau established Center for Native Child and Family Resilience.

Dr. Art currently serves as the co-director of the newly formed National Quality Improvement Center (QIC) for Preventive Services and Interventions in Indian Country. Dr. Art was previously the Senior Advisor for Tribal Capacity Building for the Capacity Building Center for Tribes, of the Capacity Building Collaborative of Children’s Bureau.

In the past, Dr. Art was the executive and clinical director of The Child and Family Institute, one of the principal Mental Health contractors for Sacramento County Child Protective and Children’s Mental Health Services. Dr. Art founded the Washoe Family Trauma Healing Center in Gardnerville, Nevada. In 1999 Dr. Art was appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human services to the National Advisory Council for SAMHSA.

Dr. Art was the past Director of the department of Marriage, Child and Family therapy at the San Diego Campus of Alliant University as well as Director of Counseling and Psychological Services for UC Merced. Dr. Art has served as a nationally known consultant in issues involving Native Americans, Native American Family Dynamics, Indian Child Welfare, Native American Child Development and Native American Traditional values and health interventions.

Dr. Art has over 40 years of experience providing psychological and child welfare services to American Indian tribes and communities.

Receiving the best care possible

The best way to receive optimal care for you or your loved one is to ask your provider these questions: What are your qualifications? Where did you get your education? What degrees do you have and what do they mean? Who else is on your team? Who is your supervisor and manager? Do they offer services specifically for the Native American population and are they culturally responsible or trained in your specific population?

If people say they are offering substance use programs, ask if they are they SAPTA certified, or ask what certifications they have. What model do they use? Also, take a tour of the facility and meet the providers.

People need to take ownership in their spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health. If you or a loved one is struggling with behavioral health issues, take the time to explore the programs available. Ask lots of questions and make sure you are receiving services from qualified, culturally competent, and good resources.

Your community leaders believe in and have heavily invested in your healthcare. They believe healthy individuals make healthy families and healthy families make healthy communities. Everyone wins when everybody helps each other obtain and maintain health spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically! O

“Ask Paul” is a health column by Paul Snyder, MA, LADC-S, a Substance Use Counselor at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center. It publishes each month in The Camp News, the monthly newsletter for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony community. Have a question for Paul? Email him at