Youth center welcomes first youth offenders next week

SILVER SPRINGS -The first of 10 teenage offenders will take up residence Monday in the new Western Nevada Regional Youth Center.

The 29-bed treatment facility near the Ramsey-Weeks Cutoff in Silver Springs is a new way for five counties to try to get teens off the criminal track.

Instead of the heavy security of a jail or the light treatment of a week or two of counseling, the youth center has no bars and will try to turn teens around in a two-month treatment program, director Lon Cook said.

"We will have kids who are not so used up in the system that they need more structure than we can provide," Cook said.

The center has been planned since fall 1994 by county and city managers, district judges, chief juvenile probation officers and court-appointed juvenile masters in Carson City, Douglas, Storey, Lyon and Churchill counties.

The youth center will allow judges and juvenile probation officers to keep offending youths in the region. Until now, youths often are sentenced to facilities in Reno, Winnemucca or Caliente - or not sentenced at all.

"It's an alternative that was not available to us previously," said Lyon County Manager Steve Snyder, chairman of the five-county consortium that planned the center. "I trust we'll be able to make a difference for our youths with this facility."

The center opens in the spirit of parity with two youths expected from each of the counties at the outset.

Cook will start with 10 youths and build the population to 15 as kinks are worked out of the system in the first week or two. He thinks it may take longer to expand to 20 youths.

"I would say the jump from 15 to 20 youths will be the toughest," Cook said. "At about 15 or 16 kids, they start to fall into sub groups. That's where the issues come into play."

The stay at Western Nevada Regional Youth Center will fill the middle two months of a sentenced youth's four-month treatment program. The first month involves hearings, planning and setting up a transition plan to get a youth successfully through the program.

Upon arrival in Silver Springs, youths will be assessed for mental health, alcohol and drug problems, medical, behavorial, 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.

Once released, youths will undergo at least a month of follow-up, Cook said.

"Who the ideal kids are for this program is what we will learn in the first few months," Cook said.

The Nevada Legislature allocated $1.25 million to build the center, and the five counties will split the estimated $800,000 in annual operations costs.

Lyon County, as the center's host county, is providing administrative support and its personnel policy and the center's paperwork will be processed through the county.

"I feel this is a pilot project that will be closely scrutinized by other agencies in the state as a way to do business," Snyder said. "This is another example of where we're not bound by our boundaries. We're ignoring our boundaries to come together for the common goals of our counties."


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