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Space going fast at Silver Springs center

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

Eleven days ago, a 14-year-old boy became the first Douglas County youth to be sent to the new Western Nevada Regional Youth Center in Silver Springs.

Four days ago, District Judge Dave Gamble talked of sending one and possibly two more youths. He was told they’ll have to wait, because the center is filled – for now.

The news didn’t surprise Gamble.

“I have known I would have kids for it as soon as it was available,” he said. “We already know that our demand is higher than our availability.”

The facility, designed to treat youths with drug and alcohol problems, has 27 beds and will fill them gradually. Two other beds are “secure,” to be used temporarily if juvenile detention facilities aren’t available.

Director Lon Cook said he expects to have 10 youths in residence by Monday. He said all of the counties that cooperated to build and run the $1.25 million facility – Carson City, Lyon, Churchill, Storey and Douglas – were given a pair of spaces for the initial opening.

Judges and juvenile probation officials previously met and developed criteria for sending youths to the facility, and the county officials use that information to decide who will be assigned. That means the staff at Western Nevada can focus on working with the youths as soon as they arrive, instead of screening and assessing them.

Cook anticipates allowing another five youths in by the end of the month and moving up to 20 by the middle of September. The gradual increases will allow the staff to address unforeseen issues that may arise.

Cook described the first group as “excellent.”

“They are doing very well. The parents have all shown up and done good orientations,” he said. “We have not had to talk the families into doing this. They are coming through the door ready to work.”

Cook said an orientation meeting is held with each family when the youths arrive. A treatment plan, followup care and goals are outlined.

“It is very highly structured and organized and very much of a team approach,” he said.

The youths will attend support groups, be able to visit with their parents and earn phone privileges. The center has a teacher, and Cook hopes that eventually the youths can get academic credit for the work they do at the facility.

The stay at the treatment center is to last two months. A month of preparation and a month of followup bring the program to a total of four months.

Cook said the treatment center is the first in Northern Nevada to implement such a program, and the five-county cooperative is also unique.

“Everywhere, people are making the conclusion that multidisciplinary programs work,” he said. “Here, you have a success story with five counties that have done it. That I have not seen anywhere else.”