Juveniles program changes sponsor

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A state-funded program designed to keep young Routt County offenders out of jails has changed its sponsoring agency.

The change of sponsorship for the Community Evaluation Team Executive Committee came after the team's budget was cut in half this year. Originally, the program was sponsored by Steamboat Mental Health, but now it will be sponsored by the Routt County Department of Human Services. The Routt County Board of Commis-sioners approved the change Tuesday.

The program is part of a Juvenile Services Plan serving the 14th Judicial District, which includes Routt, Moffat and Grand counties.

The Juvenile Services Plan was put in place by a 1994 state Senate bill that allocated funds to each judicial district to be sure youths are treated at the least restrictive appropriate level of care. That means that whenever possible, youths who could be treated outside a correctional facility were.

Counties in the 14th Judicial District decided to split the state funds in thirds, with Routt County using the funds to create the Community Evaluation Team.

The team's job is to recommend a disposition to a judge whenever a juvenile is brought to court. Before the team existed, a judge would receive a half-dozen recommendations from parents, school officials, probation officers, social service workers, the district attorney, mental health workers and others who knew the juvenile.

"We'd all disagree," said Bob White, director of Routt County Human Services. "Nobody was talking to each other."

But with the Community Evaluation Team, White said that changed.

"What we did with the Community Evaluation Team was bring everybody with the family to a staffing where we all scratch our heads together and try to come up with a disposition or a treatment plan that will work," White said. "The judges don't have to take our recommendations, but I think they appreciate it."

The recommendations come from groups and individuals who know the juvenile well and are more likely to recommend a plan that will help the juvenile.

After the county's funds were cut from about $42,000 for 2003 to about $23,000 for 2004, Steamboat Mental Health gave notice in May that they could no longer be the sponsoring agency. Routt County's probation and sheriff's departments were not able to sponsor the team, so Human Services took it on, White said.

The details of the changeover should be worked out by Oct. 1, he said. One of those details includes finding a part-time county employee to serve as the teams' case manager.

White also said that Routt County commissioners were clear that while they could support the program with time from county employees, they would not be able to give any additional financial support to the program.

"Kids, I think, are really getting the help they need to not get in more trouble and wind up getting locked up," White said.

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