By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
“He really needs to be in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for intensive support,” stated the clinician. “But where can we get him accepted?”
This conversation has happened 12 times over the past year about youth clients that Nonviolence Works is serving. And only 2 were accepted into an RTC—with discouraging results.
One of the reasons for poor outcomes is that the youth who are referred are in need of intensive support, and this includes family therapy. With no RTC closer than Albuquerque—and only three in the state of New Mexico—the needs are great, the waiting lists are long, and the barriers to family involvement are huge.
As heavy narcotics availability has increased in Northern New Mexico, so has their use by our youth. With the youth Drug Court Program being dissolved for lack of funding, Taos has no programming for substance abuse cases that involve our youth. A number of youth seen at NVW have Dual Diagnosis (which means that they have substance abuse mixed with another disorder). Conduct Disorders and Oppositional Defiant Disorders are also frequently seen.
While the diagnoses vary, some major behavioral indications of the need for an RTC placements include depression; suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts; drug & alcohol abuse and addiction; anxiety and panic attacks; issues related to trauma, such as flashbacks, nightmares, or irritability; self-harming behaviors (i.e. cutting, burning, pulling out hair); anger/aggression/mood swings; sexualized behaviors; constant physical agitation; and poor ability to focus and prioritize activities.
Youth who are candidates for RTC services often act out explosively and lack the ability to mediate their own behaviors. They need intensive support—24 hours of being in a secure place with knowledgeable supportive staff.
NVW has dealt with such youth, and we are concerned that the lack of RTC services means we will lose these youth to negative outcomes. We are now discussing collaboration with the Juvenile Detention Center staff and Taos County administrators. Conversations began because the Center has had a fairly low census since its construction, while the need for services to youth before they are in trouble with the law or commit suicide is increasing.
Restructuring the services provided at the Juvenile Detention Center could provide a much-needed opportunity for Taos to service its own—keeping our youth in town and providing family therapy with whomever has legal custody.
This would be a never-before created collaboration between an experienced local non-profit agency and local government. If the conversation continues in a positive manner, NVW would provide the clinical and programmatic services in a residential facility—which could house both a detention facility at the level currently needed—and a new RTC for comprehensive services which included the family. Taos County currently has contracts with Colfax, San Miguel, Mora, Quay, and Union counties—and these could continue with services offered in the new combined model.
Nonviolence Works is dedicated to responding to community needs—to creating models that strengthen families and intervene with youth before tragedy occurs. The community needs this service, and we are continuing active discussions. We want a local response to the question “But where can they go?”
Nonviolence Works has the largest behavioral health staff of clinicians and counselors in northern New Mexico. Contact us at 575-758-4297 or at www.nonviolenceworks.us.
Mary McPhail Gray is the Board Chair of NVW and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org