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State closes youth psychiatric facility at center of RJ investigation

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that it is revoking the license of a youth psychiatric facility in Nye County that has been plagued with allegations of child abuse and sexual assault.

As of Wednesday, all children who were at the Never Give Up Youth Healing Center have been transferred to other facilities or discharged home, according to a statement emailed Friday evening by the state health department. The department also announced that the facility’s license was suspended March 2 by the Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance, which licenses health facilities in Nevada.

“Never Give Up appealed that finding, and negotiations have been ongoing,” the statement read. “Now that no children remain at the facility, HCQC will officially revoke the facility’s license.”

A spokeswoman for the health department said 17 children were taken from the Amargosa Valley facility this week. She also said an administrative appeals process is available to the facility.

David Levin, Never Give Up’s CEO, and a public relations firm that has represented the facility did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Friday evening.

Never Give Up, which housed children who suffer from a range of behavioral and psychiatric conditions, was the subject of a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation published this month that outlined allegations of child abuse that led to hefty fines from the health department.

“In response to recent reports related to the Never Give Up facility in Amargosa Valley, the Department of Health and Human Services worked across Divisions to ensure the safety of the youth in the facility until adequate placements could be found,” according to the statement issued Friday.

Health department staff visited the facility on April 21 and “called an Immediate Jeopardy event at the facility,” less than two weeks after the Review-Journal published its investigation. The department staff were at the facility to “ensure safe and appropriate clinical care” while the patients were being transferred or discharged, according to the statement.

Criminal charges

Last week, deputies with the Nye County Sheriff’s Office arrested Christina Mendoza, a licensed practical nurse who worked at the facility, on six counts, including criminal neglect of a patient resulting in substantial bodily harm and failing to report abuse of a vulnerable person.

The arrest report indicated that Mendoza was a mandatory reporter of child abuse who did not alert authorities to injuries children suffered in physical restraints by staff members.

Four other adults associated with Never Give Up also are facing criminal charges in separate cases ranging from allegations of child abuse to sexual assault of a minor, the Sheriff’s Office has said.

In addition, the facility is facing more than $350,000 in fines from the state health department over allegations that staff unnecessarily, and sometimes violently, restrained children and failed to address other ongoing problems, the Review-Journal reported this month.

Multiple lawsuits against the facility also are active in Nye County, alleging that patients were sexually assaulted by staff and other patients.

Two weeks ago, the facility refused to give updates to the Commission on Behavioral Health, which is tasked with reviewing data on the use of seclusion and restraints at facilities across Nevada.

In June, the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center submitted a complaint to the state health department detailing its own investigation into the facility.

The group alleged that its representatives had witnessed children with cuts and bruises from restraints. Property damage was prevalent throughout the building, including broken ceiling tiles and hanging cables that one patient allegedly used to attempt to hang himself, according to the complaint.

Medicaid contract termination

In January, Nevada Medicaid sent a letter to Never Give Up stating that it was terminating the facility’s contract because it was found to be in violation of a corrective action plan from the health department. Parents were notified in a letter sent by the health department that Never Give Up had to remove all children under Medicaid from the facility by April 5 because of the contract termination.

The health department confirmed Friday that it had sent a provider termination letter and sanctions notice to the facility on Jan. 5 because of “multiple complaints and Medicaid policy violations.”

Never Give Up had appealed the decision, according to Friday’s statement, and the Division of Health Care Financing and Policy had stayed the termination “to ensure the appropriate transition of the Medicaid-enrolled children remaining at the facility.”

Nevada Medicaid previously has refused to make an official available for an interview with the Review-Journal about the facility. The state health department said Friday that the facility continues to pursue an appeal of the Medicaid contract termination.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter. Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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