U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the Indian Health Service (IHS) proposing to build in California?

The IHS is planning to build two Youth Regional Treatment Centers (YRTC) in California. The proposed centers will provide residential chemical dependency treatment for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth, ages 12-17. There are 12 similar IHS-funded centers around the country. The treatment programs are usually 3 to 4 months in duration and incorporate mental health services, medical care, education, aftercare planning, and family therapy. In addition, YRTCs incorporate therapeutic activities to meet the unique spiritual and cultural needs of AI/AN youth. The facilities will be nationally accredited and State licensed. They will be staffed by a team of mental health care professionals, medical providers, and traditional healers who will work in concert to treat the whole person. Each facility will offer services for as many as 32 youth at a time.

Why is the IHS proposing the YRTCs?

The U.S. Congress authorized the YRTCs in the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. In 1992, Congress amended the Act authorizing IHS to construct and operate two YRTCs in California, one to serve northern California, and one to serve the remainder of the state. Currently, most of California’s Indian youth who receive residential chemical dependency treatment are sent to out-of-state facilities. Often, out-of-state programs do not address the unique cultural needs of Indian youth, and cannot offer effective family therapy. These facilities do not have the capacity to meet the need in California, and often Indian youth and their families experience long delays before they receive care. Some receive no residential treatment at all. The new YRTCs in California will be an important step to helping thousands of Indian youth in California who need residential care.

Who will the YRTCs serve?

The proposed YRTCs will serve AI/AN youth, ages 12-17. They will primarily serve youth in California, but could serve youth from across the country.

Are they detention treatment centers? Will they house violent criminals?


No. Our YRTCs are voluntary chemical dependency treatment centers. They only admit youth whose parents or guardians consent to their treatment, and they screen out youth who are likely to be dangerous. YRTCs do not admit youth who have been charged with or convicted of violent crimes. Clients of the YRTCs follow a strict daily schedule, are monitored 24-hours per day and are not allowed to leave the facilities unescorted.

The new treatment centers will expand and complement existing IHS-funded, Tribally managed behavioral health services in California. The YRTCs will provide comprehensive and holistic care, including:

  • Mental health assessments, health care services, and individualized treatment plans
  • Structured chemical dependency programs (e.g., 12-step programs)
  • Individual, group, and family therapy
  • Academic education
  • Activities to meet the spiritual and cultural needs of Native American Youth
  • 32 beds (16 male; 16 female) plus 6 beds for close observation
  • Five suites for families to participate in the treatment program 

Does the IHS operate similar treatment centers?

Yes. The IHS funds 12 YRTCs nationally. The IHS operates five of the YRTCs and contracts with Tribes to operate the remaining seven. Some of the YRTCs have been operating continuously for almost 20 years.

Will the treatment centers affect public safety in the neighborhoods?

The IHS respects the concerns that the treatment center may represent a risk to public safety. The YRTCs’ staff will screen out youth who are likely to be dangerous and will not admit youth who have been charged with or convicted of violent crimes. The programs will have around-the-clock nursing supervision and electronic surveillance of the buildings and grounds, and the youth are not allowed to leave the facilities unescorted. Youth at YRTCs must adhere to a strict, time-consuming schedule that includes lights-out at 10 p.m. during the week, and 11 p.m. on weekends. Youth at other YRTCs have chosen to leave on their own to return home, and this will likely happen at this site. However, they are not violent criminals and when they leave the YRTC, they do so to go home. Almost 20 years of experience tells us that this rarely happens and when it does, youth quickly leave the community.

Will the treatment centers bring revenue and/or jobs to the local communities?


We believe that each YRTC’s projected $4 million annual budget should provide modest benefits to the local economy. The combined budget to construct the two facilities is approximately $34 million. The budgets for construction and operations could provide the local communities with new jobs and new customers for local businesses. Each treatment center will employ about 70 people, including:

  • 27 certified health care and mental health professionals,
  • 23 resident attendants and peer counselors,
  • 13 maintenance and food service workers,
  • 5 administrative staff, and
  • 2 teachers

IHS will accept applications from the local community. However, it’s impossible to predict how many of the jobs will be filled by local community members. IHS must comply with the Federal Indian Preference hiring policy which ensures that members of federally-recognized Tribes qualified for IHS vacancies receive first consideration. On average, at other YRTCs, 50 percent of the employees were hired under Indian Preference. 

What will the YRTC's look like?

Each YRTC is unique. However, all incorporate the physical environment in the healing process, and their success relies, in part, on respect for and preservation of the land. The proposed YRTC will not look institutional or commercial. The IHS will pay special attention to the natural character of the land. The IHS will ensure that any new buildings will blend with the environment and exist in harmony with the neighborhood. We will employ state-of-the-art green technology to create eco-friendly structures. The two facilities will be the first that the IHS will build in California and will be models for treatment centers of the future. Ultimately, these facilities will support the IHS mission, in partnership with Indian people, to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of the Indian population to the highest level.

Will there be more information available to the community? How can the community provide input about the treatment center and the IHS' plans?

We understand how important it is that the community supports our plans. Community members and the public have a right to voice their concerns and provide feedback about the project. The IHS has a responsibility to provide factual information, listen to the community, and respond in a timely fashion.
We are seeking community input about the YRTC project, and we welcome your questions.  


Indian Health Service
California Area Office
650 Capitol Mall, Suite 7-100
Sacramento, CA 9581
California YRTC Project
(916) 930 - 3927
Gary BallCalifornia YRTC Planner and Architect, Ext. 342

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