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Youth Mental Health Advocates: Hospital's Closure Is Part of Bigger Problem

In August, state regulators told Montevista Hospital in Las Vegas to stop taking new patients. The mental health facility had lost its Medicare and Medicaid contracts for failing to make improvements needed to bring its services into compliance with federal law.

The loss of any mental health service in a state that already has far too few of them is concerning, but the loss of Montevista is especially distressing to Nevada's youth mental health care community. With 92 adolescent beds, the hospital was Southern Nevada's largest in-patient provider for kids.

Char Frost is the parent representative with the Clark County Children's Mental Health Consortium. She told KNPR's State of Nevada that there are still several hospitals that offer acute care, which is defined as in-patient hospital care for two weeks or less.

However, the long-term care provided by Montevista Hospital is the problem. At any given time, between 200 and 250 kids are forced to go out of state for residential care, which can range from three to nine months.

“Losing those beds, losing our ability to place kids in the state, close to home is particularly distressing not just for mental health providers but also for the families who are faced with some pretty hard decisions that they are going to have to make regarding the care of their children,” Frost said.

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Frost said the type of care a young person needs really depends on his or her doctor, family and the patient himself or herself. She said someone with schizophrenia can do fine with doctor visits and medication, while someone with depression can need hospitalization.

For kids who do need hospital care, Frost said the state needs more than just more beds. 

“We have several hospitals in the Las Vegas valley that can handle that [acute] load while we’re waiting for Montevista to do whatever it is they need to do in order to become accredited again, but at the same time, we want to make sure our kids have access to quality services,” she said.

She said that is really what the consortium is working for quality care for kids in crisis.

“[Nevada is] 51st in the nation for children’s mental health. It’s not a good place to be on the scale,” Frost said.

She said it is time for people to accept that people with a mental illness are no different than people with a physical ailment. Frost has two boys with mental health needs but she sees those needs as a very small part of her boys' lives.

“There is a lot of stigma attached to mental health, even today. It seems to be getting a little bit better, but I think we could do a better job of really helping educate people that having a mental health issue is not the end of the world,” she said.

Frost said there are several reasons why families don't get the services they need for their children from concerns about what friends would say to worries about their ability to join the military.

She said parents need to be vocal about what their kids need, especially when it comes to preventing a crisis. 

“Mental health is tricky and it’s subjective at times but at the same time, we need to be giving our kids the skills they need,” she said.

Frost recommends that parents with kids in crisis contact the Children's Mobile Crisis Team. The team was created after the consortium asked the Legislature to create it.

The team comes out to a family's home to determine if a child can be stabilized at home or if they need to go to an acute care facility. Frost said the team has a 92 percent diversion rate, meaning they keep most of the kids they see out of the hospital, which Frost said is better for everyone.

RESOURCES:

Clark County Family Services

Children's Mobile Crisis Response Team

State Division of Child & Family Services

Clark County Children's Mental Health Consortium

Guests

Char Frost, parent representative, Clark County Children's Mental Health Consortium

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