Youth Center opens Monday to treat sentenced teens

SILVER SPRINGS - Three teens on Monday will be the first to check into the new Western Nevada Regional Youth Center, a five-county counseling and treatment facility.

In all, 10 teens with criminal records - eight boys and two girls - will start their two-month treatment programs next week as the youth center opens after nearly six years of planning in Carson City and Lyon, Churchill, Douglas and Storey counties.

Two teens from each county will launch the center, which ultimately will house 27 teens sentenced there for treatment by judges in the five counties.

The $1.25 million youth center will allow judges and juvenile probation officers to keep offending teens in the region to rehabilitate those who need treatment more than punishment.

The first 10 teens are in the 14- to 16-year age group, all with alcohol and drug problems that led to other crimes. These include property crimes, petty larceny, low-end burglaries, running away and minors in possession of alcohol, said Lon Cook, the center's director.

"Auto burglary, that's a popular one," said Cook, adding that some of these teens also stole vehicles. "They are chronically unsuccessful and not in school."

Teens will be processed into the center one at a time - at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on the first day. Each successive day will introduce two, three or four more teens.

The population will grow to 15, 20 and ultimately 27 in the coming weeks.

"The formal orientation is about an hour," Cook said. "It's part of our initial assessment."

Assessment and transition planning are the pillars of Cook's approach to straightening out troubled teens.

Upon arrival in Silver Springs, teens will be assessed for mental health, alcohol and drug, medical, behavioral, legal and academic needs. The staff - including three lead counselors and 10 counselors - will oversee intervention, teaching, skills development, counseling and treatment, and transition planning.

The orientation session will involve the youth, his or her family and the case worker.

Nearly all of the 30 juvenile probation officers in the five counties dropped by the youth center Friday for an open house Cook put on for them. Cook brought them up to date on how the center will operate, a process that has evolved on a day-to-day basis the past two weeks as all the newly-hired employees were trained.

"We want to be a team," Cook said. "We want their input before we open."


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