LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada ranks fifth for children who have at least one major depressive episode a year. The state is at nearly five percent more than the national average for youth with depression who did not receive mental health treatment.
It’s an ongoing problem a federal report has shone a light on.
Jesse Simpson, at 17 years old, is not like most kids.
“My stomach killed the crap out of me.”
He was born with cerebral palsy and autism at just 25 weeks. That’s on top of significant anxiety and PTSD, all provoking years’ worth of constant medical treatment.
“That’s what he’s known his childhood, is pain,” said his mom Crystal Simpson.
Simpson said first diagnosing the mental disabilities took a year. The waitlist to get other necessary behavioral services took just as long.
She was left with a choice: admit him to a medical institution in Utah, potentially for months at a time, or drive him there multiple times a year herself.
She chose the latter.
“Why should we segregate them off? And treat them like it was back in the 40s?”
The Department of Justice report found hundreds of Nevada families are facing this dilemma.
It said the state does not have an adequate amount of community-based services that could keep them here at home.
A quarter of these children have to stay away for over a year.
“As parents, we have choices, but in Nevada, we’ve had fewer choices,” said Char Frost, the Statewide Family Network Director of Nevada Pep, a resource to help families navigate their children’s mental disabilities.
A lack of local behavioral services forced her to submit her own 12-year-old child to an out-of-state institution years ago.
Now, she and other officials expect a change in Nevada’s youth mental health system.
“When kids are at home and they’re doing well mentally, they’re doing better at school, they do better with relationships with others. There’s just a whole lot of benefits that come with being at home versus being put in a hospital,” said Frost.
“There needs to be more doctors that can do this stuff, and there’s not,” said Simpson.
We don’t know specifically how many children in the state require these services and could benefit from them being closer to home. But for Nevada Pep, here in Las Vegas alone, they say they served over 19,000 people in just 2021.
Governor Steve Sisolak responded to the DOJ investigation, agreeing that the state is lacking. He did not address how he will specifically address how he will bring more of them to Nevada communities.