A year after facing the possibility of shutting down over a lack of funding, the Tooele County Youth Services Center is once again going strong.
The center, which offers short-term services to at-risk juveniles, was operated through a three-year, $181,000 grant that had funded it since it was opened in June 2009. However, that grant was set to run out at the end of 2011, and no replacement grant could be found. That’s when Valley Mental Health stepped in.
“Valley Mental Health did not want to see this program go, so they picked it up,” said Danniel Worthen, social service worker with Valley Mental Health for the youth center. “The only way they’re able to keep the funding going is it used to be that all the services were free, and now we have to charge for the therapy. But everything else is free. If Valley had not taken over, the center would have closed.”
The youth center provides therapy, counseling, crisis management and support services for ages 8 to 17 — an agenda that dovetails with Valley Mental Health’s Bridges program, which offers similar services, she said.
As easy as it was to mesh the two organizations, the news that the center might close down spread more quickly than that it would stay open, Worthen said. Use of the center declined in the early part of this year.
Referrals are typically made by parents, school officials or law enforcement officers. Tooele City Police Chief Ron Kirby said before the center was built, officers had to take and refer juveniles to youth centers in the Salt Lake City area, which required more work, time and expense. That would have again been necessary had the center closed down last year, he said.
“We are extremely happy that it’s keeping its doors open,” said Kirby. “We use it a lot. It saves us from going into Salt Lake, and the resource is for the officers as well as for the parents. I don’t think I can overstate how important that resource is to the community. Other centers have had to cut hours or services and close, but for some reason ours is still open. I’m very grateful for that.”
Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park said he, too, is glad the center is still open. Having it close would have meant deputies would spend less time on patrol locally and more time driving to Salt Lake, he said.
“It has been beneficial to us and the county simply because it negates the necessity of an officer having to take a youth to Salt Lake and waiting and then coming back,” he said. “That’s one benefit we all have seen, that it doesn’t take an officer off the road all that time.”
Worthen said addressing issues such as truancy, juvenile delinquency, homelessness, ungovernable behavior, dropping out of school and running away, can help stop those behaviors from turning into criminal activity as adults and increase the chances that those juveniles will become productive, contributing members of society. Often, she said, offering support to children and teens in a crisis can have a significant effect on their future.
“We have kids here who do great in school but they’re facing some individual crisis at the moment,” she said. “Kids, whatever crisis they’re going through at the moment, it effects everything, and then they start acting out, even in the community, because they’re trying to find outside stimuli to compensate for what they’re feeling. If we can find the resources to help them, or the tools, long-term it helps them be successful individuals in society.”