There's no such thing as a bad kid - Daily Courier

Date: May 7, 2011

The Daily Courier. 

SOASTC, organization dedicated to helping children with serious mental health and behavioral disorders, hosts Celebration of Hope.

The Southern Oregon Adolescent Study and Treatment Center, the region’s only large-scale organization aimed at helping children with serious mental health and behavioral disorders, hosted a Celebration of Hope lunch in the Taprock Event Center Friday.

Bob Lieberman, the center’s Executive Director, said some people may wonder what there is to celebrate in a world where an estimated 20 percent of children experience mental health problems and only a third get help.

Lieberman said people should celebrate that children “can be, and in fact are, resilient.”

Lieberman said SOASTC’s clients have histories that include aggressive behaviors, emotional and sexual abuse, and self-inflicted harm.  SOASTC offers psychiatric residential treatment, foster care, day treatment and outpatient child psychiatrist.

The organization was formed in 1977 by a citizens’ action committee that wanted to develop a community-based, mental health residential treatment facility for children. 

The program initially served boys in a small facility south of Grants Pass.  Lieberman said SOASTC’s philosophy is “There is no such thing as a bad kid.”

In 1984, the organization moved to Merlin and a campus that houses up to 12 boys between the ages of 9 and 18.  In 1997, SOASTC opened a second psychiatric facility on Ramsey Avenue that specializes in treatment for girls ages 7 to 17, as well as younger boys.   In 2000, SOASTC started its Community Alternatives Program that offers foster care and intensive in-home and community services. 

As SOASTC grew, it started to develop school-based services.  The School Community Project was initiated in 2005 using money from foundations, corporations and schools to help children in Josephine and Jackson counties.

In 2006, SOASTC expanded its services to Coos County with Coastline Services in North Bend, which offers treatment foster care, intensive community services, and psychiatric day treatment in a public school setting.  Last year, SOASTC opened Three Bridges program, a secure residential facility on Ramsey Avenue, for young adults between the ages of 17 and 25 with serious mental health problems.  Three Bridges, the first program of its kind in Oregon, is designed to serve up to 12 people who may or may not have been served in the state’s mental health system for juveniles.

Avery, a 22-year old Three Bridges resident, said that before SOASTC she had no purpose and no place to go.  She started out in SOASTC’s residential program when she was 18.  Today she is working toward getting a GED and mapping out a future with hope.

Avery said without SOASTC, “I would be suffering in my depression.”

Monday the organization will unveil its newest program - a five bedroom group home that provides mental health services to young adult’s ages 18 to 25 years old who need help with housing and life-skill development. 

Called Kairos, an ancient Greek word meaning the opportune moment when change becomes possible, the facility was built on the former location of the Josephine County gravel pit off Wagner Meadows Drive.  The facility is staff around-the-clock to provide individualized services to residents who are struggling with mental and behavioral disorders; with the aim they will achieve independence.  Residents are individuals who are too old for foster care and lack personal support systems necessary to live on their own.

“The young adults will be learning skills they need to be successful in college and the workplace,” said Michelle Richardson, SOASTC Chief Operating Officer and the home’s interim manager.  “The program will be important transition for many from higher levels of care to life in the community.”

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