Updated April 14, 2023 - 10:35 am
A psychiatric treatment facility — the subject of a recent Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation into allegations of child abuse — refused to give updates to a state oversight commission on Thursday.
Since September, the Never Give Up Youth Healing Center, located in Amargosa Valley, has been asked to give updates during Nevada Commission on Behavioral Health meetings about conditions at the residential facility.
The facility is facing more than $350,000 in fines from the state health department over allegations that staff unnecessarily restrained children and failed to address other ongoing problems.
The Commission on Behavioral Health, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services, is tasked with reviewing data on the use of seclusion and restraints at facilities across Nevada, according to agendas from past commission meetings.
“Last year, we had kind of set a goal for Never Give Up to come about every two months and give us some updates on where they’re at and what’s going on,” commission Chairperson Braden Schrag said during Thursday’s meeting. “We reached out to them. They have declined at this time.”
A public relations firm representing Never Give Up, a lawyer representing the facility in civil cases and David Levin, Never Give Up’s CEO, did not respond to Review-Journal requests for comment on Thursday.
The agenda for Thursday’s commission meeting included this item: “Update on Commissioner Concerns Regarding Seclusion and Restraint Reports from Never Give Up Youth Healing Center Facility.”
Restraints as ‘last resort’
An attorney with the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center has told the Review-Journal that restraints should only be used as a “last resort” to prevent children from harming themselves or other patients. But state inspectors who have investigated Never Give Up over the past year substantiated reports that staff were restraining children as punishment, including to prevent children from leaving rooms or damaging property.
Some patients were held against walls, according to incident reports obtained by the Review-Journal, and staff with the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center who investigated the facility reported seeing children with cuts and bruises from restraints.
Dr. Lisa Durette, a member of the Commission on Behavioral Health, previously told the Review-Journal that she had concerns that “minimum standards are not being met” at Never Give Up. She said the facility was failing to treat children with the least restrictive means possible, including failing to discharge patients for months or years.
During Thursday’s meeting, Schrag acknowledged the Review-Journal’s investigation and said that because the facility is involved in ongoing litigation, he does not believe it will report to the commission again until early next year.
On top of the fines from the health department, Never Give Up also is facing multiple lawsuits from former patients alleging that they were sexually assaulted at the facility, either by staff members or other children. Up to four adults associated with the facility also are facing criminal charges in Nye County on allegations ranging from child abuse to sexual assault.
Dr. Gregory Giron asked Thursday how the commission would maintain oversight of the facility’s use of seclusion and restraints, and Schrag said he would have to look into the unusual situation.
“Those seclusion reports were bogus at worst, and maybe somebody else could make sure we’re getting accurate information from them,” Giron said. “That was very unnerving, this whole thing with Never Give Up, and I don’t want to keep reviewing reports that aren’t meaningful.”
Giron declined to elaborate further when reached by the Review-Journal following the meeting. Schrag did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Throughout 2022, Never Give Up restrained children more than 300 times in holds that lasted anywhere from 20 seconds to 70 minutes, according to documents the facility sent to Nevada Medicaid, which covered many of the children at Never Give Up.
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 the health department’s corrective action plan. 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 future of the facility remains unclear. Never Give Up previously has said it is appealing the decision to terminate its contract.
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