Federal funds to help battle effects of meth

Clark County’s efforts to protect children from the mental and physical abuse of parents who use methamphetamine received a financial boost Monday from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The federal agency’s Administration for Children, Youth and Families awarded Nevada a $3.7 million grant to address meth addiction as it relates to child welfare issues.

“This is to help us deal with an issue we’ve been struggling with,” said Mike Willden, director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, who on Monday received the state’s first installment, a check for $1 million.

The funds will be spread out over five years with the bulk of the money, $2.1 million, going to WestCare Nevada to help its residential inpatient services to meth-abusing women and the children.

Currently, the nonprofit agency assists pregnant and parenting women in eliminating their dependency on drugs and alcohol, in retaining and regaining custody of their children and in becoming economically self-sufficient. The program also provides intensive case management to the women.

With the additional funding, WestCare plans to add 12 beds to its residential treatment facility for meth-abusing women and their children in the child welfare system.

The program had funding for only 18 beds.

Overall, the grant will help WestCare provide up to 48 more women and their children access to residential treatment services per year.

The average stay in the program is four to six months.

The average wait time to get in the program is 32 days.

Because methamphetamine abuse in Nevada has increased, state health officials, so has the abuse and neglect of children whose caregivers are addicted to the drug.

Of the 5,500 cases in the state’s child welfare system and the 14,000 Child Protective Service complaints, roughly 70 percent are in Clark County.

The majority of those cases are related to meth abuse, Willden said.

“This is a system that is oftentimes overwhelmed,” he said.

According to the state’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Agency, 45 percent of adults needing substance abuse treatment reported meth abuse, and 41 percent of adolescents needing treatment said they used meth.

Joan Ohl, commissioner of the federal Administration for Children, Youth and Families who presented Willden with a check at WestCare Foundation’s office, said a total of 53 grants have been awarded to help states combat the meth problem.

“This is one we are particularly interested in watching,” she said about Nevada.

The grant is expected to support collaboration among the state’s Health Division, attorney general’s office, Court Improvement Project, Clark County District Court, Substance Abuse Treatment Agency, Clark County Department of Family Services and WestCare.

Under the grant, the state is also to create a liaison position between District Court and Family Services.

The grant calls for training between the child welfare agency, Family Services and WestCare, and better access to early intervention services in the county for children with prenatal exposure to meth.

Nevada’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Agency also will provide matching funds to WestCare, about $800,000, for adult outpatient services.

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