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Las Vegas ranks last for youth mental health. Here's how one woman hopes to help

Center for Connection
The Center for Connection in Las Vegas.

The stats for mental health care in Nevada are sobering.

The Lincy Institute and Brookings Mountain West found that during 2015, and from 2020 to 2022, Nevada ranked last in the country for overall youth mental health. It also ranks third in available school psychologists and last in available school social workers. The nonprofit Mental Health America also ranks Nevada last in youth mental health and care.

Local therapist Janet Nordine wanted to do something about this ongoing crisis. So she co-founded a collective centering on youth and family therapy. Her Center for Connection facility opened in May with 10 private practice therapists. And it’s the first of its kind in Southern Nevada.

She joined State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann for more.

This is the first collective of this kind in Southern Nevada, but it's not uncommon nationally.

"What's interesting about the Center for Connection is I'm a registered play therapist through the Association for Play Therapy," Nordine said. "As far as I know, in my dealings with play therapists in Nevada, I'm the only one in private practice. So it's very unique to have access to me as a play therapist that's done all the extra training, nationwide play surplus, or more widely known and widely available in other states and other communities."

She became a therapist in 2008 after working in the hotel industry. Her first job was working with children in foster care.

"My first client came in, I had a deck of Uno and I was ready to go. And after my first day, I thought,' I've got to find a different way.' And from that first day, as a therapist with children, I started to think and make plans and carefully set goals that someday I wanted to have this kind of facility where families could come and be welcomed and be loved and really seen," she said.

Her facility's success so far has been through word of mouth.

"I see changes in families," she said. "I think it does feel different to people."

Many of the children she's seen since the start of the pandemic are dealing with anxiety. She specializes in children age 6 and older, and said they worry about homework, families, and divorce.

"Children are little sponges and they take all that in, and they're trying to make sense of it in their world," Nordine said.

They also work with children who have experienced sexual or physical abuse, neglect and other difficult situations.

"We've seen so much trauma just from the pandemic, and then you compile that with life trauma and family difficulties. Schools and teachers and counselors are overwhelmed with the amount of emotion that children are bringing to school every day," she said.

And Las Vegas sometimes presents its own problems.

"I do feel in Las Vegas, we have a specific demographic. They just experience things differently. I was born and raised here. So I kind of have a specialty in working with navigating how to be in a community here in Las Vegas."

Nordine said she hopes to expand the Center for Connection.

Guest: Janet Nordine, therapist, co-founder of Center for Connection

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.
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