MIAMI COUNTY — Once a haven for troubled youth, the state of Ohio announced it is closing the rehabilitation side of the West Central Juvenile Facility (WCJRC) located on County Road 25-A outside of Troy.
West Central has two divisions with the detention center housing at-risk youth and the rehabilitation center for male juvenile offenders convicted of serious felony crimes. The detention center is not impacted by this Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) decision.
According to Miami County Juvenile Court Judge Scott Altenburger, the 32-bed facility had an operating budget of $1.8 million and was fully funded by the Ohio Department of Youth Services before it was ordered to close by June 30, 2021, or when the last male offender is released from its supervision and programs.
“As a result of Director (Ryan) Gies’ decision, the WCJRC will no longer provide valuable rehabilitative services to youth in the Miami, Shelby, Preble, Auglaize, Darke and Mercer County areas. The concept of community-controlled rehabilitation for troubled youth has been lost by the decision to withhold funds,” Altenburger said,
Altenburger said in December 2020, the center was notified by DYS that its annual funding would be ending at the end of June 2021. The rehab center was also instructed to immediately stop accepting new youth into the program.
The center, under the direction of executive director Gary Link, filed an appeal, which was denied on Monday. Link, who has been the director of the facility for one year, said the center employs 35 staff members.
“Ohio’s DYS Director Ryan Gies indicated that one of the reasons for the closure was due to the center’s decreasing population, citing that the majority of the youth committed to the center were coming from outside the counties that the center was mainly intended to serve, being Miami, Shelby, Darke, Preble, Mercer and Auglaize,” Altenburger said. “Director Gies also indicated that the fact that currently five of those counties had withdrawn from the Governance Agreement (temporarily)], was also a factor. At the time of the notification of denial of funds, (aforementioned counties’) Juvenile Court judges approved a new governance agreement and were ready to present the new governance agreement to their individual boards of commissioners for final approval. Senate President Matt Huffman and Representative Jena Powell were in support of WCJRC remaining open.”
In a Jan. 29, 2021 letter to Gies, Huffman wrote, “I am concerned that in the termination notice sent to West Central in December, one of the reasons cited for termination was that a large portion of the facility’s residents was from outside of the six-county catchment area. If a facility’s services are deemed successful enough to attract the notice of judges in other parts of the state, I would assume that would be cause for praise of the facility — not termination of its funding.”
Finally, in the denial of appeal letter dated Feb. 1, 2021, Gies recognize the quality of services provided to local youth by WCJRC, stating that, ”However, the quality of the program and operational costs were not factors in the decision to terminate funding.”
Additional information and more details about the closure and its impact on its employees and on the surrounding communities will follow this initial report.