Devin Brooks is three years out of college and already commands an audience with the governor.
Last month, the 27-year-old North Las Vegas native marched into Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office alone, on short notice, to talk about Medicaid.
Brooks didn’t find it out of the ordinary. His Brooks Behavioral Health Center, 3550 W. Cheyenne Ave., is one of the largest Medicaid vendors in the state’s fourth-largest city of North Las Vegas.
Centennial Hills’ Medicine Cabinet — a business he co-founded at age 17 — might be the only private no-insurance prescription plan provider in the Las Vegas Valley.
Brooks isn’t a typical state health care bigwig — he’s young and black, for one — but he’s long cast a tall shadow in his community.
After 10 years in health care, Brooks’ stature seems to be growing everywhere else.
“(Sandoval) better make time for me, or else we’ll have some problems,” he said with a laugh.
“This is a community-based business, but I’m just now beginning to understand the power that I have, the influence I can have in my neighborhood.”
Brooks’ Behavioral Health Center outpatient therapy office, 3050 W. Cheyenne Ave., is home to 33 psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and social workers providing support and therapy to kids who, for the most part, have nowhere else to go.
All of the center’s patients are Medicaid-eligible, and a lot of them are on juvenile probation or parole.
Many grew up in neighborhoods not unlike the one in which Brooks came up, some with even fewer opportunities.
The Cheyenne High School graduate said his background has a lot to do with how he chooses to spend his days. That’s why Brooks’ center is strategically positioned in the middle of underserved neighborhoods near Cheyenne Avenue and the heart of West Las Vegas.
Medicaid providers like him are far from the wealthiest business owners in the health care industry but are among the most needed: Dozens show up to play basketball or work on homework at Brooks’ outpatient center on school days; hundreds more have referred a family member to one of his clinicians for help with everything from substance abuse and domestic violence to depression and ADHD.
Of course, the same megawatt smile, brains and natural affability that have made Brooks so successful in the health care field could, he fears, doom him to a career in politics.
As the youngest employee at the head of two companies and most recent recipient of the NAACP’s Rising Star Award, he has good reason to worry.
“Stuff has been moving so fast for me, it’s a blur,” Brooks said. “The people in my community expected this from me, so people who know me are always saying I should do more.
“People who don’t know me are always impressed, always asking when I’m going to be governor.”
Brooks, who used to do his homework in Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow’s office, claims no immediate political ambitions.
For now, he’s focused on humbler community outreach initiatives, including an annual church-led tour of historically black colleges for at-risk teens throughout West and North Las Vegas.
Brooks has taken to sponsoring those trips out of his own pocket. He remembers taking one himself before enrolling in Southern Utah University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations and broadcasting.
Brooks isn’t a doctor. The lesson of his success, according to uncle Larry Owens, is that personal ambition can help you become your own boss.
It may even put you in charge of a few doctors along the way.
“In five years, (Brooks) is gonna be a much more powerful person in this state,” Owens said. “He’ll kick some toes on the way up there, but that’s just the way he is.
“He wants to make sure that kids who are stuck here get an opportunity to see things they wouldn’t get to see.”
Contact Centennial Hills and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3839.