Pubdate: Fri, 09 Mar 2001
Source: Blade, The (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Blade
Contact:  541 North Superior St., Toledo OH 43660


Ford Says Community-Based Programs Can't Replace Residential Treatment

COLUMBUS - Employees of the Maumee Youth Center told a House subcommittee 
yesterday the facility is the best at what it does.

"Fifty-nine of our population received their GEDs last year," said Maumee 
training officer Terry Stiger. "You won't find that number at other 
institutions. ... Don't close a facility that has done so much for so long."

But the director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services told the House 
Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Safety that a fenceless, 
medium-security facility for low-level felons next to federally protected 
wetlands and a state forest no longer fits the department's long-term needs.

The department has proposed closing the 35-year-old, 120-bed juvenile 
detention center in Henry County's Washington Township to save about $9.4 
million a year. The center specializes in residential treatment for 
juveniles with drug and alcohol problems.

Director Geno Natalucci-Persichetti told the committee the youth center 
recently failed an accreditation audit for the first time, in part because 
the camp-style facility is not designed to deal with the changing face of 
juveniles being sent there.

The low-risk offenders Maumee was designed to handle are more often dealt 
with in community programs, he said. Those being sent to the facility tend 
to be older and greater security risks.

"I cannot fill these beds," he told the subcommittee. "There are currently 
98 people in this facility. It would be better to expand substance abuse 
treatment centers at the other facilities."

But the employees countered that Maumee had always operated at or near 
capacity until the state made the decision to close it earlier this year. 
They said the facility's accreditation failure was primarily due to 
facility maintenance.

Maumee is the last unfenced facility in the DYS system. Its closing would 
mean the reassignment, early retirement, or potential layoff of about 160 

"There's a road on one side and a state forest on the other," Mr. 
Natalucci-Persichetti said. "We would have to get permission from every 
level of government to cut down hardwood forest and invade wetlands. We 
were advised that wasn't going to happen."

After the hearing, Mr. Natalucci-Perscihetti said, "I don't want a 
17-year-old who shouldn't have been there escaping and doing something in 
the community."

The system as a whole is currently operating 19 percent over capacity. Half 
of the 200 beds at a new maximum-security facility at Marion have yet to 
come on line, and 120 beds at a southern Ohio facility are expected to open 

House Minority Leader Jack Ford (D., Toledo), who once ran a substance 
abuse treatment program, argued that community-based programs can't replace 
residential drug and alcohol treatment.

"At the Maumee Youth Center, ... you can work with them in a 24-hour-a-day 
atmosphere," he said. "You have them for months and you can really turn 
them around.

"This is a net loss of 120 beds when, in fact, you need a lot more beds 
than that," he said.

Employees and proponents of keeping the facility open plan to rally at the 
site Saturday at 1 p.m.

The governor has proposed increasing the department's budget by just 0.8 
percent in 2001-02 to $238 million. The budget would climb 4 percent in the 
second year of the biennial budget.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart