Adolescent Mental Health Hospital Nearly Doubles Capacity, Expands Adult Care Amid National Crisis

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) As a lack of mental health resources plagues the nation, a Las Vegas Valley hospital is doubling its capacity to care for sick patients in hopes it can free up space for emergency room beds.

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Desert Winds Hospital opened its doors two years ago, but only for 12- to 17-year-olds with mental health issues. When asked, Milieu Manager Kenneth Holland described one of their most difficult cases: a 12-year-old patient who suffered from self-harm.

Inside one of the rooms within the new Desert Winds Hospital ward for adult patients battling mental illness. (KLAS)

We tossed her an apple one day and said, you know what, you take that apple and you peel it the same way you would your own skin, Holland said Thursday morning in the hospital lobby. You look up 30 minutes later, that apple was peeled.

It’s just one example of the unconventional treatments, as Holland describes them, used as part of the hospitals 90-day residential program.

Because emergency room beds are full elsewhere, those emergency rooms aren’t necessarily fully staffed.

Holland says the problem has worsened due to mental health stigmas and has been exacerbated even more during pandemic-related restrictions.

But, as Adina Archibold, director of clinical services, says, age doesn’t determine who can have mental illness. A 2023 report by insurance company Quotewizard found that 21% of Nevadans have a mental illness, Nevada has the eighth worst access to mental health care in the country, and only four in 10 Nevadans have mental illness they are receiving treatment.

There are chemical imbalances, trauma is a big thing, Archibold said Tuesday morning in the hospital lobby. Adults don’t get the level of services that young people do.

Desert Winds will soon make available 94 beds, in addition to its established capacity of 108 beds, in a newly constructed unit purpose-built for adult patients. This nearly doubles the number of hospital patients who can participate in its 202-bed residential program.

Holland adds that this could help limit the number of patients sent out of state for treatment.

Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (left) visits Desert Winds Hospital’s new adult unit with Milieu Manager Kenneth Holland (right). (KLAS)

We want to see fewer people in emergency rooms and more people hospitalized, Holland said. We saw them transferred directly from hospitals. Families and loved ones are calling.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto received a tour of the expansion Thursday morning, where she acknowledged her efforts to secure funding for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline, mobile crisis units, and mental health services allocations in COVID relief packages .

The FY2024 presidential budget includes $10.8 billion for substance abuse and mental health services.

We don’t have enough resources, Cortez-Masto said speaking to media inside the hospital lobby on Tuesday morning. In the budget right now, there’s more money for mental health than we’ve ever seen before.

In mentioning other barriers to accessing mental health in the state, he points out how Nevada law prevents out-of-state medical providers from practicing there without receiving a new license.

Allow them to come here and practice here as well, without having to start all over again.

The Adult Behavioral Health Recovery Program at Desert Winds Hospital will be available to adult patients starting July 17.

For more information, the hospital directs people to call Admissions at 702-522-7922 or 702-344-9900.

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