Twelve-year-old Heather didn’t mind the attention state and local leaders showed her new home Thursday.
In fact, when the opportunity presented itself, the youngster decided to show off a bit of her own talents to one of the state’s top administrators, Mike Willden.
She grabbed a picture from atop a dresser depicting "Shrek the Third" characters, walked up to Willden and showed him her artwork.
Heather’s gesture brought a smile from Willden and from officials of Oasis On-Campus Treatment Homes.
"Most of these kids were never taught how to interact with people," said Karen Chandler, clinical program manager for the organization, which opened two new homes Thursday, increasing the number of children it can accommodate to 27 from 17.
"They don’t know much about personal hygiene, cleaning their room, or how to sit down at the dinner table," Chandler said. "That’s where we step in.”
Oasis On-Campus Treatment Homes, a state-run facility at 6171 W. Charleston Blvd., is a 24-hour intensive and structured treatment program for children ages 6 to 18 who suffer from severe emotional disturbances and developmental disabilities.
Willden said their emotional problems are so severe that the children cannot be treated in their own homes.
The children suffer from depression, mood swings and adjustment and attention deficit disorders, and they have problems being around their peers. They also may exhibit physical and verbal aggression, officials said.
Many of them have been in foster care or in the custody of the Clark County Department of Family Services.
The number of children with dual diagnoses — a severe behavioral problem along with a developmental disability — is increasing in Nevada, officials said.
At least 76 such children have been identified in Clark County, Willden said.
In an effort to reach them, Willden and other state and local leaders secured $590,000 from the legislative Interim Finance Committee in September to expand the Oasis facility. The funds also pay for staffing a team of specialists consisting of clinical case managers, mental health technicians, therapists and caseworkers.
With the expansion, Oasis has five treatment homes.
Program manager Fran McClain said children continue to attend school while in the program. The average stay in the program is nine to 18 months, she said.
"This is a first step in our journey,” Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said about the opening of the two homes. "Hopefully, we’ll continue to make some progress. … We just don’t have enough resources in this community for youth with mental health problems.”