China Spring back on the upswing

The entrance to China Spring Youth Camp located south of Gardnerville in the Pinenut Mountains.

The entrance to China Spring Youth Camp located south of Gardnerville in the Pinenut Mountains.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

After a rough couple of years, China Spring and Aurora Pines Youth Camp are back in the black.

Camp Director Wendy Garrison said there are eight new camp employees going through training and that she hopes to hire another five to bring the staff back up to its full 45-person complement.

“Usually, summer referrals are low,” Garrison said. “But if I had enough staff right now we could be at the full 60 kids. We have a waiting list through September and the need is really high right now.”

Each employee required 90 days of training, including the 30 days required by the state and another 60 days for the camp.

“That’s for our assessment by the State Correctional Placement Checklist,” Garrison said. “Based on that, the camp is No. 1 in the state and among the best in the country in spite of the cuts we’ve sustained.”

At the present emergency staffing, the camp has 20 boys and 10 girls.

“We hope that by September or October we’ll be out of emergency staffing,” she said.

Since the camp receives funding from Medicaid in addition to the state, the number of occupants determines its funding levels.

Last week, county commissioners put the finishing touches on the camp’s budget, approving the camp’s $3.88 million over the next two years that was allocated by the Legislature for the camp.

The boys side of the camp had to close for three months from July to November 2021.

The camp serves 16 of Nevada’s 17 counties with only Clark County having its own facility.

The 2021-22 budget called in cutting $1.2 million in the state’s support to the camp, which combined with $800,000 in lost Medicaid revenues due primarily to the reduction in students during the coronavirus outbreak.

A change in administration helped the camp, but unfamiliarity with the state budgeting caused some concern during the session, but with the help of Sen. Robin Titus, Garrison said things worked out.

“We met with the governor’s finance people who gave us helpful tips,” she said.

It didn’t help matters that the session coincided with one of the harshest Pine Nut winters on record.

“We had snow up to the roof line,” Garrison said. “The road had the same damage from the first time and flooded every time there was anything happening. Our weather pattern comes from Kirkwood, so we can have snow when the Valley has a sun-shiny day.”

New Assistant Camp Director Dr. Jenna Sexton was stuck on the road for three hours on the day of her interview.

“It was a pretty harsh winter on us,” she said. “But the camp survived and thrived. We don’t get the benefit of being able to close the camp. We’re taking care of other people’s children.”

A bill to secure funding the camp for two years passed the Legislature, but work on having individual counties fund the camp based on their use will continue before the next Legislative session.

China Spring is not a boot camp, and offers several programs, including training, classes, services and therapy for trauma, commercial sexual exploitation, domestic violence and anger management.

China Spring also offers behavioral healthcare services, including services for people who have a substance use disorder as well as a mental health disorder.

China Spring is located in the Pine Nut Mountains south of Highway 395. Originally opened on Aug. 1, 1983, the 40-acre camp site was donated by rancher Stoddard Jacobsen.

The camp closed for two years but reopened after being redesigned by District Judge Norm Robison, who helped build the structure.

Aurora Pines was added to house girls in 2002.

The camp accepts offenders ages 12-18. Those juveniles sent to China Spring cannot be convicted of a felony.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment