By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
Taos County personnel were delighted to recently receive approval from the New Mexico Children Youth and Family Agency to move forward on creating a Taos County Residential Treatment Center for Adolescents!
In all of New Mexico, there are only 90 beds for adolescents in residential treatment centers—and there are more than 300 youth on waiting lists.
It has been 10 years since there was an RTC in northern New Mexico. It is time to reach out to our youth and families and provide needed services. Since the 1920’s when the first youth and family residential treatment centers changed from a punitive control model to models of treatment to facilitate change, research has been slowly accumulating about what successful treatment requires.
Adolescence is one of the most complex periods of youth development as a young person moves from dependency on parents and extended family members to independence and movement into the larger community and work environment. There are challenging tasks to accomplish—choosing work/career goals and the education required to achieve them, deciding what community to live in, establishing ongoing supportive friend relationships, experiencing social activities that may lead to finding an intimate partnership and life long recreational and sports pursuits.
In all such challenges, looking at choices and daring to move forward takes emotional courage and good decision-making. But what if a youth is depressed, hyperactive with attention deficits, socially isolated, fearful and anxious, minimally connected with school, neglected or abused, angry and reactive, self-destructive, or any combination of these traumas? Then the developmental challenges become too much to accomplish. Youth may lash out, engage in illegal and harmful behaviors, choose friends who engage in harmful behaviors, or consider suicide.
They become known to law enforcement, the Juvenile Courts System, the emergency room personnel, and the county office of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Social Services Department. Thirty to forty percent of youth who become involved in the Juvenile Court system are in need of residential treatment. If clinical professionals evaluate them, a need for residential treatment is one of the options that might be considered. Soon they may have a local haven to receive treatment!
Two of the most critical variables that support success are coordinated care with families throughout the residential time and in follow-up planning, and community involvement. Families and youth need to jointly name the goals of treatment, in coordination with clinical staff. And the community has to be ready to collaborate across different systems, offer youth creative volunteer activities, vocational exploration and education, and a feeling of belonging.
One of the great advantages of a residential treatment center is that many different modes of treatment can be used—all reinforcing the desired outcome of youth who become successful contributing members of the community. Treatment can include clear and consistent rules and routines, program activities, education, group sessions, individual counseling, conflict intervention and skill building in emotional control, rewards systems, parent education groups, family counseling, and individual behavioral modification plans.
What can you do to help? Stay tuned to the call for volunteers to help transform two thirds of the present Juvenile Detention Facility into a welcoming, more homelike residential center. We may need your room painting skills, your art and rugs, books and magazines, plants and linens to create a warm environment. And then think about the special skills you have to share with youth.
We will be in touch!
Nonviolence Works has the largest licensed and credentialed behavioral health staff in northern New Mexico. Reach out to us at 575-758-4297 or www.nonviolenceworks.us
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at 5750-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org