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Feds Find NV Failing Children With Behavioral-Health Disabilities

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Wednesday, October 5, 2022   

The U.S. Department of Justice said the State of Nevada unnecessarily institutionalizes children with behavioral-health disabilities, and the problem is severe enough to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Justice Department announced its findings Tuesday, after an investigation found hundreds of children are stuck in hospitals or group homes when they should be living at home and getting community-based mental health services.

Dr. Tiffany Tyler-Garner, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Alliance, said the situation is troubling.

"Literally, the situation is so dire that they are surrendering their children to the child welfare system, in hopes of getting them mental-health services," Tyler-Garner observed.

The report showed in 2020 more than 1,700 children were admitted to the hospital for psychiatric care in Nevada and 480 ended up in residential facilities, often staying 9-12 months, and some were sent out of state. The problem is partly due to a severe lack of providers at all levels, exacerbated by low Medicaid reimbursement rates.

Tyler-Garner emphasized out-of-state placements are extremely traumatic for children and parents.

"That fragmentation that ensues as a result of it, can be crippling," Tyler-Garner stressed. "If you think about that journey of coming back together as a family. "

Gov. Steve Sisolak noted in a statement Nevada recently dedicated more than $80 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to the public child behavioral-health system.

Tyler-Garner acknowledged the new investments is a good first step.

"The need is great," Tyler-Garner asserted. "Short-term pandemic or relief funding isn't going to cure it for us. Yeah, we need to find the money."

Sisolak has vowed to train more mental-health professionals and work with the Justice Department to remedy the situation. If the state does not show significant improvement over time, the federal government could file suit.


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