Steamboat Springs Families looking for resources to help re-enroll expelled students into Routt County school districts now are eligible for programs funded by the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Steamboat Springs Superintendent Donna Howell told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Monday that the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts have been accepted into the state's Collaborative Management Program.
"I'm very excited about it because it gives us another opportunity to work together as a region - as the Yampa Valley - with both Hayden and South Routt," she said. "Because first and foremost we want to provide support to our children and to our families so they make good choices and they are successful in their future."
Howell said the three districts will have access to state funds, which may exceed $200,000 a year, to provide resources for as many as 20 students.
"It's an opportunity that brings some resources - some dollars - along with us to help with what's available in our community," she said. "And I think any time we collaborate, we just put programs in place that services more students."
Bob White, director of the Routt County Department of Human Services, said the districts will be able to use the resources to enroll students in area programs, such as drug rehabilitation with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, or in service organizations, such as Partners in Routt County or the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.
"The good news is that we will be able to provide care to 20 youths that otherwise our systems would not have been able to serve," he said. "These might be young folks and their families in the front end of the system to siphon them off from the expensive costs at the deep end of the system."
White said the funds could also be used to individualize programs for youths who are already tapped into resources but who may benefit from an integrated treatment plan.
"We want to work with these individuals at the least restrictive, appropriate level of care, which is family and communities and schools - as long as we are maintaining community safety," he said.
Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said she is excited about the streamlined approach to care through cooperation among program partners.
"These programs really do avoid duplication of services and fragmentation of services so kids don't get lost in the system, and that families don't get lost in the system," she said. "To me, it's early intervention as well before they get into the criminal justice system or before they get too far into it. In that sense, not only is it good for them, but it's good for the taxpayer because that kind of intervention is much cheaper than a prison bed later on."
White said the county hopes to receive $140,000 generated by the state's divorce tax. The eight participating local groups - including all three local school districts - must contribute $5,000 each, and another $50,000 is available in seed money from the state.
Howell said additional funds will be saved and redirected elsewhere by keeping children out of the more expensive resource programs.
"Our most valuable resources are our human resources - our students," she said. "Anything we can do to support them to make good choices, to contribute to the community - economies and socially - will have huge returns on the investment. This is an opportunity to bring in some resources and work cooperatively for what is best for the community."