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Auditors Wary of Child Health Safety in Nevada Care Centers

By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, January 19, 2023 6:46 am

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (702 Times, NV Globe) – A report issued this month found that five institutions had a pattern of insufficient monitoring and poor regulations during a year-long assessment of child care centers throughout Nevada in 2022.

The evaluation was conducted barely three months after a U.S. Nevada was failing its children with behavioral disorders, according to a Justice Department review, by relying too much on institutionalization.

State legislative auditors discovered “serious concerns” including unsafe living conditions, kids self-medicating antipsychotic drugs, and unattended chemicals and equipment. According to their investigation, a hatchet was once placed on a table at a foster care facility. A storage room with an exterior lock was being used as a bed in another, it said.

Auditors reported finding a blood-stained pillow, blocked toilets, exposed pipes, and mounds of filthy clothing and trash in children’s rooms during the inspections between January and November of last year. They said that after inspecting the institutions’ inventories and records, they discovered missing medications, medical records, and documents pertaining to staff training and background checks.

“If I was a parent, I would be furious,” state Democratic Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop said last week at a meeting where auditors and state lawmakers discussed the findings. “It seems to me you shouldn’t have to complain to have things right. They should just be right. I hope moving forward, we’re taking care of these vulnerable children.”

The state was failing “to guarantee access to community-based programs that may avert institutionalization,” according to the Justice Department’s 25-page study published in October, which led to frequent hospitalizations. Children were frequently sent to long-term residences outside the state, “exacerbating the consequences of the segregation,” according to the DOJ investigation.

This estimate is supported by the most recent state evaluation, which notes that as of June 2022, more over 100 children were housed in 14 various institutions spread throughout six states. State legislative auditors visited 19 of the 57 child care centers that were subject to state regulation and licensing for their report.

A youth addiction treatment facility in Las Vegas, a foster care program in Reno, and the Never Give Up Youth Healing Center, a troubled residential psychiatric facility in rural Nevada that received subpar ratings for health and safety from the state in 2020 during a similar review, were among the five institutions that raised concerns.

The former campus of the now-closed Northwest Academy, the only private boarding school in the state before it was closed on Valentine’s Day 2019 after the married owners were arrested on a combined 90 counts of child abuse and neglect, is where Never Give Up is situated in Nye County, surrounded by miles of open desert.

According to the study, Never Give Up was the only institution out of the five facilities that the state had threatened with a fee last year during the inspections.

The state Department of Health and Human Services informed Never Give Up’s administrator in September that it wanted to punish the institution $8,000 due to a number of failures, according to a copy of the penalty acquired by The Associated Press.

Health and Human Services found that Never Give Up had neglected to maintain the facility to “ensure the safety and well-being of its residents” in a separate 65-page report outlining those problems. Among the problems noted in the report: sagging ceilings, exposed electrical wiring, splintered wooden desks in classrooms, broken deadbolts, missing emergency lights, loose smoke detectors, and a cable hanging from a ceiling.

Never Give Up had to submit a correction plan, which the Department of Health and Human Services deemed “appropriate” in its letter of punishment.

Although it was unclear from the records if Never Give Up paid the amount, the records indicate that the punishment is “closed.” Inquiries made through phone and email to a Health and Human Services spokesman went unanswered.

A riot has broken out at the mental health facility since the group took control of the campus in Amargosa Valley, about 90 miles (144 kilometers) outside of Las Vegas. Additionally, law enforcement authorities have started an investigation into claims of physical and sexual abuse, and a man was detained on suspicion of raping a patient and sexually abusing two other people while working at Never Give Up.

State auditors also visited eight youth prison facilities as part of their examination. The study claims that two of them violated the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003’s need to thoroughly test children and teens “for sexual victimization or abusiveness” within 72 hours of their arrival. Although they are not mentioned in the report, the auditors advised both institutions to use appropriate risk assessment techniques.

The use of force policies in Nevada’s adult prison system were found to have several flaws, including a frequently underreported number of events, during a separate assessment by legislative auditors last year. Following the publication of the study, representatives from the state Department of Corrections acknowledged that none of the 16 suggestions made by the audit to enhance facility operations had been carried out.

Credits: FOX 5 VEGAS

Copyright 2023 702 Times, NV Globe. All rights reserved.

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