Lack of mental health resources increases demand on NV’s child protection system, administrators say

The shortage of mental health care providers in Nevada is putting additional strain on the state’s child welfare systems, county administrators told lawmakers last week.

New data presented to an interim legislative committee on health and human services last week suggests what administrators of child and family welfare programs have long been saying: that some children end up in the custody of the State due to mental health issues that could have been resolved sooner.

Nevada has a higher overall rate of children in state care – 6.3 per 1,000 children compared to 5.6 per 100,000 children nationally

According to the 2020 Child Abuse Report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly nine out of 10 children — or 89% — placed in Nevada’s foster care system are removed from their homes due to neglect. Nationally, 65% of children are…

“Neglect” as a classification for removing a child from their home can encompass many situations, but one of the contributing factors identified by state administrators is mental health.

“When a child is removed from an adult caregiver who is not receiving mental health treatment and is unable to care for their child, it enters our system as neglect,” said Timothy Burch, service department administrator. to the Clark County family. . “We asked earlier why our neglect rate is so high. It is a contributing factor. »

burch noted that so far, more than 80 children have been placed in the Clark County child welfare system since August because their parents could not provide for the child’s mental health needs. The current pace suggests that “well over 120” children this year will be released to the county for this reason.

“We desperately need more help with mental health treatment and wraparound services for children in our community,” Burch added, “so they don’t end up in the welfare of the childhood.”

Ryan Gustafson, director of children’s services at the Washoe County Social Services Agency, also identified mental health services as one of the agency’s main challenges. He said intensive treatment options have declined in Washoe County, referring to the closure of West Hills Hospital and the Safe and Growing Project – in addition to a general decrease in available psychiatric services.

The Safe and Growing Project offered free therapeutic day treatment to children aged 3 to 7 who were victims of crime, such as neglect and abuse. It served up to 36 children a day, according to KOLOwho presented the program and its risk of closure due to a lack of funding last year.

West Hills Hospital closed in december after the company conducted a “comprehensive review and assessment of multiple factors, including the cost of renovating aging infrastructure,” according to local reports. The behavioral hospital, opened in 1981, has 95 beds, including 35 for children.

“We lost one of our two psychiatric hospitals,” Gustafson said, “so when the kids (need help) they now go to medical hospitals where they are waiting for a bed in the one hospital psychiatry that we have left. This creates backlogs. And that creates undue hardship and stressors for children and families.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that community programs have their own enrollment delays or limit the number of Medicaid beneficiaries they accept, he added.

The closure of West Hills Hospital prompted some, including Mayor of Reno Hillary Schieveto appeal to the American Rescue Plan Act’s allocation of dollars to mental health resources.

According to Reno-Gazette NewspaperGovernor Steve Sisolak promised during a December meeting with northern Nevada mental health service providers do his best to free up ARPA money for the cause, but noted that “the (federal funding) is not as flexible as I would like”.

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this month that more than $43 million in ARPA money would be earmarked for grants to support behavioral health programs, including $14.9 million for “Crisis Services and Stabilization,” $4.9 million for direct services and treatment, $3.1 million for “Services for Pregnant Women and Women with Children,” and $2.2 million for dollars for “early serious mental illness”.

More than 40 private, public, nonprofit and community coalitions are expected to benefit, according to a press release.

Separately, Clark County commissioners last week approved a $1.9 million contract with Silver State Pediatric Behavioral Services through June 2023 to provide long-term hospital care for children in the care of the county. Silver State will provide up to six beds for inpatient treatment of children who need more intensive help — a move that should ease conditions at Child Haven, the county’s temporary housing for abused and neglected children, which workers have described as an understaffed and ill-equipped landfill for children with mental health issues.

Sisolak also spoke of a $20 million ARPA-funded investment in a 9-8-8 phone number that will connect people around the clock to trained counselors at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The hotline is expected to launch in July.

The shortage of mental health providers and resources in Nevada is well documented. Mental Health America has classified Nevada as dead last in his overall mental health ranking, indicating a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower access to care. In the subcategories, Nevada ranked last for youth mental health, second-to-last for overall access to care, and 47th for adult mental health.

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