Youth center offers help for teens

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 1999

PEDRO – Oak Ridge Treatment Center has a new administrator and has begun public advisory board meetings.

Tuesday, November 02, 1999

PEDRO – Oak Ridge Treatment Center has a new administrator and has begun public advisory board meetings.

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Dr. Michael Dowdy recently replaced Anne Erwin, who took a similar position at another facility.

The initial board meeting – which sought input about center programs and growth from staff and the public – was Oct. 21, but attendance was not very high, Oak Ridge marketing director Laura Gleichauf said.

"We’re growing slowly by our own choice," Mrs. Gleichauf said, adding that the newly-opened campus treats about 18 youths right now.

"A lot of good came out of the meeting," she said. "We went through the programs to see what we could be doing."

Another advisory board session is planned but a date has not been set, Mrs. Gleichauf said.

Earlier this year, the Youth Development Corporation of America leased its juvenile facility near Lake Vesuvius to Oak Ridge, a division of an Indianapolis, Ind., mental health services company.

Oak Ridge can accept up to 65 adolescents who are in need of clinical diagnosis, therapy or partial hospitalization.

It currently employs about 25 to 30 full- and part-time employees. At full capacity, it should employ about 70 to 80 employees, officials said.

Oak Ridge’s philosophy involves treating the whole child, from finding that root problem that led to the youth’s referral to providing education, Mrs. Gleichauf said.

The average length of stay for children will be six to eight months, she said. And staff can do 30-, 60- and 90-day evaluations.

Children not accepted at the facility include those who are severely or profoundly mentally retarded, who require intensive medical or nursing help, who are severely physically handicapped, or who have committed crimes of extreme violence toward others or pose safety threats.

Like previous youth center operators, Oak Ridge has an open campus, meaning it is not a locked facility, but the types of children do not pose as much of a runaway risk, officials said.

Meanwhile, getting the facility up and running this year has been a challenge the staff has welcomed, Mrs. Gleichauf said.

Oak Ridge is increasing its teaching staff and continuing plans to increase other staff, she said.

The center has started a mental illness and mental retardation unit, which has become a new area of emphasis, she added.

"We keep getting better and better every day," Mrs. Gleichauf said.

Also, as new administrator, Dowdy has added to Oak Ridge’s programs – professionally and personally, she said.

"For instance, come five o’clock he may grab a football and play with them, to build team-building skills," she said.