The Clark County Commission approved a program with the Clark County School District and community partners aimed at preventing truancy by expanding services available to the youth and families through the successful Harbor Juvenile Assessment Center. The expansion would include opening four new centers to be located throughout the Las Vegas Valley in addition to the two existing Harbor facilities.
Staff from Clark County's departments of Juvenile Justice Services, Family Services and Social Service presented a report at today's County Commission meeting to establish a Truancy Prevention Outreach Program as a means for reducing student truancy and chronic absenteeism. The Truancy Prevention program was developed as a result of Assembly Bill 309, which was approved by the 2019 Nevada State Legislature authorizing local governments to increase sales tax to pay for specific types of programs, including truancy programs. Truancy and chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 18 days or more of school for any reason, are recognized as significant obstacles to student success. The reasons children miss school vary and can include health problems, being bullied at school, and family struggles such as housing instability, food insecurity and child care issues.
"There is a direct correlation between truancy and student absenteeism from the classroom and a child's success at school and in life when that child becomes an adult," said Jack Martin, Director of Clark County's Juvenile Justice Services Department which oversees the Harbor program. "The Harbor has been successful at working with families and community partners to address some of the underlying causes of troubling youth behavior, and we believe our existing service model at the Harbor can be expanded to help schools and families reduce truancy and chronic absences and hopefully improve graduation rates."
Clark County created the Harbor in 2016 as a collaborative program to prevent youth who are exhibiting troubling behavior from escalating into the juvenile justice system by connecting them to counseling, substance abuse treatment and other services they and their families need. Since opening, the Harbor has served more than 10,000 youth and families. In addition to Clark County and the School District, partnering agencies include the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Clark County Family Court, the local cities, the Clark County District Attorney's Office, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the North Las Vegas Police Department, Three Square, Eagle Quest and several nonprofit organizations.
"Student truancy and chronic absenteeism are community problems that require community solutions to address," said Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick. "The Harbor is designed to provide wrap-around services from multiple partners, and we are hopeful this approach will work to make sure kids are going to school and staying in school."
Under the Truancy Prevention Outreach Program, students and their families would be referred to the Harbor as part of a tiered system of intervention and support, providing increasing levels of case management and services depending on the amount of school missed and the circumstances of each child and family. Following passage of Assembly Bill 309, the County Commission voted to approve a smaller sales tax increase than allowed, one-eighth of a cent, which is expected to generate about $54 million annually for education and social service programs. About $12 million of that funding would go to the Truancy Prevention Outreach Program to pay for expansion of the Harbor.
"We can be proud of what our community has accomplished to date with the Harbor, and I see this expansion a natural evolution of our efforts," said Clark County Commission Vice Chairman Lawrence Weekly, an early proponent of the Harbor. "Children who miss a lot of school days in any given year, whether it's elementary school, middle school or high school, risk falling behind educationally and not reaching their full potential."
"The Harbor has proven itself to be the type of program that that works and makes a difference in our community and in the lives of the children and families it serves," Commissioner Justin Jones added. "We can change the trajectory of a child's life by working together to address individual needs and issues that are preventing a child from attending school."
The Harbor's website is www.theharborlv.com. Its 24-hour phone number, (702) 455-6912.The success of the initial Harbor pilot program prompted the Legislature in 2017 to provide $1.9 million in funding to expand its main campus into a 24-hour operation at 861 N. Mojave Road. The funding also allowed for the creation of a second Harbor location open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 6161 W. Charleston Blvd., Building 2, on the State of Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services campus off Jones Boulevard.
About 25 percent of the Harbor's clients are walk-ins from the community, brought to the center by parents or caregivers seeking guidance with their children. Residents can call the Harbor to schedule appointments for an assessment or walk in during regular business hours. Some youth arrested for first time or low-level offenses also are diverted to the Harbor by police or Juvenile Detention Center staff. Referrals also come from ministers, schools and others in the community who believe a family could be served by the Harbor.