Teens in Crisis Are Being Housed in Homeless Shelters

“Building out a full array of children’s behavioral health services in communities across the state from an essentially non-existent system takes time — but we are building it,” Johnson said in a written statement.

Children’s attorneys said the new initiatives reach few kids, and not the ones who need the most help.

“We’re still at square one,” said Sara Crecca, an Albuquerque-based children’s attorney who was co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the Kevin S. suit. “It’s really, really, really frustrating because these young people deserve so much better.”

Platero experienced these failures firsthand. When he arrived at the shelter, he was immediately placed on suicide watch. Instead of sleeping in the dorms, he’d be on a mattress on the floor of the common room, where an employee could keep an eye on him through a window.

“I’m sitting in there like, ‘When am I going to get out?’” Platero said. “‘How long do I have to be here?’”

“It makes me be hella thankful for what I have right now, knowing that I went through that,” Platero said of his experience with CYFD.

“Jaidryon, Stay With Me, OK? You’re OK. We’re Here to Help You.”

In the weeks before his breakdown, Platero and his mom were staying at a Motel 6 in Farmington. The two of them had run into trouble for drinking at a local park, police records show, and Platero had been caught smoking marijuana in a high school bathroom.

He had begun smoking a synthetic cannabis compound called Spice, which he suspects was laced with methamphetamine. He was becoming paranoid, shivering through freakish hallucinations and convinced that others at the motel would hurt him and his mother.

His grip on reality slipping, one afternoon he grabbed a large knife from his motel room and darted through traffic. Sheriff’s deputies and police chased him onto a nearby ranch, scattering turkeys as they ran. As night fell, he stood holding the knife to his throat, a police helicopter with a spotlight circling above.

When a sheriff’s deputy fired a series of beanbag rounds at Platero, he stabbed himself over and over. Officers rushed him, firing their tasers and knocking him onto his back.

Farmington Police Officer Cierra Manus, a crisis negotiator, cradled his head as he lay in the grass. “Jaidryon, stay with me, OK?” she said. “You’re OK. We’re here to help you.”

He was loaded into an ambulance and taken to a local hospital. Miraculously, he required only minor treatment for his wounds. A deputy who had responded to the scene called CYFD to report a case of possible child neglect.

In the span of nine days, Platero went from that hospital in Farmington to a psychiatric hospital across the state with an open bed, then to the youth shelter a few miles from where he had his breakdown.

Two psychological evaluations, including one four days after he arrived at the shelter, concluded that Platero needed intensive care and recommended he enter a residential treatment program. Though he was a “likeable young man” and a “resilient adolescent,” a psychologist noted, he had a history of making suicidal statements. He was diagnosed with substance abuse disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.

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