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Commissioners discuss future of Central Counties Youth Detention Center

BELLEFONTE — The Central Counties Youth Detention Center plays a vital role in Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Huntingdon and Mifflin counties.

At Tuesday’s Centre County commissioners’ meeting, the facility was one of the discussion items on the agenda. Commissioner Steve Dershem talked about the importance — and future — of the CCYDC.

“This facility is actually the only facility largely between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” Dershem said. “There’s but a handful of youth detention centers in our state and this is the only one that’s within our region. It’s importance can’t be overstated because of the locale. It actually serves about 15 counties in our region and it does have a very important role.”

The facility, located at 148 Paradise Road, Bellefonte can house up to 14 juveniles.

Dershem said that one of the challenges that the facility faces is dealing with juveniles addicted to methamphetamine.

“One of the challenges that has recently developed … there’s been a movement from heroin to methamphetamine. One of the sad consequences of methamphetamine and its use and addictive properties is that when an individual — particularly a child — has a methamphetamine addiction, the de-toxification program and the de-toxification process that it leads to can be quite stark,” Dershem said.

That leads to challenges for the facility.

“We do not have 24-hour nursing capacity at the center. It’s eight hours. We really don’t have a medical pod, if you will. We have a nurse that provides eight hour coverage, usually 40 hours a week. The challenge that we’re facing now is that we’re starting to see more and more of these children enter our facility and pass through the juvenile justice system. We are struggling right now to find a solution to providing care for those children,” Dershem said.

Since the funding isn’t there to staff the facility with nurses and doctors 24/7, it may be at a crossroads.

“The challenge is what do we do with these children in the interim? We struggle with that conversation and the courts have great concern, as does the facility. So, as we move forward, we’re trying to come up with solutions that work for everybody and provide a safe environment for the children,” Dershem said.

The de-toxification process, Dershem said, is challenging.

“There are a lot of issues. It’s not that we can just put them in the hospital or even have a place that we can send them to,” he said.

Chair Michael Pipe agreed that the facility plays a valuable role in central Pennsylvania, so it’s imperative that it overcomes these hurdles and remains open and thriving.

“We can have coordinated message going forward. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that the partnerships that we have with the four other counties and the other counties that contract with us remain intact. The great thing about Centre County is that we have a lot of resources,” Pipe said.

Dershem said that it’s imperative the facility gets some type of additional help for the sake of its current employees.

“Quite frankly, this is almost terrorizing to the employees up there because this is something that they’re not really trained to deal with,” Dershem said.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

— Awarded bids for Phase II of the Centre County Courthouse project. They were: J.C. Orr and Sons, Altoona (general contracting), Stelco, Inc., Altoona (electrical) and Joseph C. Hazel (plumbing). Deputy administrator Bob Jacobs said the county will now enter into contract negotiations with those entities.

— Announced that the county’s website has been re-designed. The new look site launched today at 9 a.m.

— Allocated $110,000 of the fee for local use funding to be used as matching funds toward two PennDOT multimodal transportation fund grant applications being submitted in partnership with the SEDA-COG joint rail authority. Port Matilda Borough will receive $60,000; Milesburg Borough will receive $50,000. That item was pushed to next week’s consent agenda.

— Announced the county was enacting new policies about employee status, merit hires (new hire process flowchart), clearance required for safety sensitive positions, physical examinations, inspection of personnel files and equal employment opportunity. Those changes will be on next week’s consent agenda.

— Approved a contract addendum with the Centre County Youth Service Bureau to provide additional funds for the provision of drug and alcohol prevention services in the amount of $124,000. That increases the contract total from $197,472 to $321,47, which is funded as follows: State ($306,652) and county ($14,820) for the period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. The contract addendum was added to next week’s consent agenda.

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