New Partnership Focuses on Youth Behavioral Health

Years of Preparation Helped Club Prepare for Pressures of the Pandemic


Ky Plaskon
Public Information Officer, Division of Health Care Financing and Policy
Carson City - February 11, 2021

The challenges of the pandemic may be leading to widespread emotional distress evident in rates of depression and anxiety among youth that are three to four times higher than they were in 2019 according to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, a new partnership between Nevada Medicaid and the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada (BGCSN) builds on the Club’s efforts to overcome barriers to behavioral health and provide youth the services they need.

“Parents may have difficulty getting kids services, whether it’s time, knowing where to go, or expense,” said Andy Bischel, Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada President and CEO. “We already have the kids, let’s eliminate those barriers and bring the services directly to the families we serve.”

The Club started to address the issue two years ago by applying for the System of Care Grant and was awarded nearly $200,000 to hire two therapists, cover travel, supplies, equipment, and other needs. Now, by working with Medicaid, BGCSN will be a health care provider that can bill Medicaid, which is a significant step toward program sustainability. The club is anticipating enough demand to hire three additional therapists. Bischel said that sustainability is the most significant factor in creating meaningful change. “Our kids and families need consistent and reliable services to build resiliency, character, and leadership skills to positively influence their futures. This effort is an investment in those futures.”

This is a challenge Nevada Medicaid has been looking to address for some time. “We need to expand our abilities to detect when youth are experiencing distress and connect them to the services they need before a severe crisis develops,” said Dr. Stephanie Woodard, Department of Health and Human Services Senior Advisor on Behavioral Health.

BGCSN is taking a multi-step approach to address this growing crisis. First, therapists run evidence-based sessions for youth ages 6-18. The sessions are modeled after a well-known method known as Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) which is increasingly being used by school districts across the nation. SEL and the BGCSNV mission align: to increase youth resiliency, reduce behavioral and emotional challenges in youth members; and enable all young people, especially those who need services most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens. The SEL sessions act as a screening tool to identify youth that could benefit from additional individual and family therapy.

This is the first joint effort of its kind between BGCSN and Nevada Medicaid. Las Vegas Councilman Brian Knudsen is credited with bringing the two organizations together. “It’s already hard enough being a young person, navigating the world, and then without friends and other families, it can be even harder,” Knudsen said. “This is the silent, emotional part of this pandemic that we can’t keep sweeping under the rug.”

Nevada Medicaid offers behavioral health services to all families that qualify. To get started, apply at