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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mountain View to go private
The Tennessee Department of Children's Service (DCS) has announced plans to modify the Mountain View Youth Development Center in Dandridge, into a privately operated facility that is focused on the mental health needs, jobs skills and mental care, of the juveniles in its custody, as well as youth with more serious issues. In recent years, the facility which houses juvenile males who face criminal charges, has seen a number issues including escapes, assaults and criminal charges for staff in the detention Center. With just 39 youth currently housed there,,Mountain View is well below the 144-bed capacity for which was is designed. The move is consistent with a years-long trend in Tennessee and across the nation, as juvenile justice programs de-emphasize correctional-style, hardware-secure institutions in favor of programs that can treat and educate youth, while keeping them closer to their home community DCS is exploring how best to take advantage of the empty beds in the Jefferson County facility in a way that will meet the needs of East Tennessee youth. Spokesperson Rob Johnson says no provider has been selected to manage the operation. The primary option under consideration would involve contracting with a current DCS provider to open a 60-bed facility at Mountain View. That portion of the facility would be "staff secure." Youth would have more freedom inside the facility, and in keeping with a less "correctional approach", the razor wire on the perimeter fence is to come down. At the same time, the private provider would operate up to 24 correctional beds, keeping youth behind steel doors and a razor-wire fence. Some of the youth in DCS custody have serious crimes against persons on their records and are not ready for a less restrictive placement, Johnson said. Leaving a section of Mountain View "hardware-secure" will also guarantee that DCS would still have access to three such placement options throughout the state, while keeping more East Tennessee youth closer to home and their families. The department estimates that the proposed change would save approximately $3 million for prevention services which could assist in preventing youth from initially coming into the juvenile-justice system in the first place. The current 120 staff members will have the opportunity of interviewing with the new provider at Mountain View or taking jobs elsewhere at DCS or at other state agencies. Before any of this could take place, DCS would need a commitment from a private provider that would be willing to undertake the necessary changes to the physical plant and, most importantly, to deliver effective evidence-based programs to the youth. A provider would have to meet licensing and accreditation requirements. The state would lease the facility to the provider. At one time, Tennessee operated five hardware-secure facilities, with a combined capacity of 600. Since 2012, it has had only three: Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville, Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville and Mountain View in Dandridge. They have a combined capacity of 204. Today's combined YDC census is 167. Under this arrangement, Mountain View's current daily cost per youth is $674. Tennessee’s hardware-secure facilities are entirely state funded, but youth placements in staff-secure, Level Three facilities are eligible for partial federal funding. Over the past three years, DCS has added 72 staff-secure Level Three beds in private-provider facilities in Middle Tennessee, and the department would like to offer more such options in the east, particularly given the vacant beds in the three youth development centers. DCS contracts with 29 private providers across the state. While each provider has its own areas of expertise, including working with children in foster care, most offer services to youth in the juvenile-justice system. Three providers offer services to juvenile-justice youth exclusively. No private providers currently operate hardware-secure facilities in Tennessee.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

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