As the Ascent program in North Idaho prepares to open in November under the new flagship of Universal Health Services (UHS), the core management team plans to maintain the original quality and structure of the program as designed by CEDU founder Mel Wasserman.
In an interview with Woodbury Reports, Denise Forbregd, Director of Ascent, Naples, ID, 800-974-1999, Clinical Director John Schrom and Admissions Coordinator Claudia Peterson pointed out that unlike many corporate buyouts, UHS has no desire to change the structure or services offered by Ascent or any of the other former CEDU programs in North Idaho. Rather, Ascent, Boulder Creek and Northwest Academy (now located on the former Rocky Mountain Academy property) will continue to grow and move into the future under the leadership of several former CEDU employees.
Although UHS and those assigned key positions in the revitalized programs are not considering an automatic rehire of all the former CEDU employees who were laid off last March when Brown Schools filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, all applications will be accepted and considered on a case-by-case basis.
According to Denise, UHS does not plan to micro manage any of the programs that fall under the new name of Idaho Educational Services; each program is overseen by the individual directors. "We will maintain the same structure as the original program, our students may transfer into the other programs we have but it will be dependent on whether those programs are suitable for the student."
Educational Consultant, Lon Woodbury, President/ Founder of Woodbury Reports, Inc., said he felt it was a fair way to go to have each program director calling the shots within the parameters set by UHS because it keeps program control with the director while still maintaining accountability to the parent company.
Lon pointed out that under the CEDU/ Brown Schools' ownership, the major complaint from educational consultants was that when students were enrolled into Ascent for example, they seemed to get lost in the "black hole" of the other CEDU programs as they moved into the next step of treatment. "It is not my goal or my job to enroll a child into any program that goes against the recommendations of their educational consultant and/ or parents," Claudia said. "My job is to make sure the lines of communication remain open between the consultants, parents and staff working with the child."
John added that before the program was shut down in March of this year, he was working closely with all of the staff clinicians to make sure that professionals, consultants and parents were updated weekly on the progress of the students. "The bottom line is that it is the parents and Educational Consultants' decision on where that student ultimately goes. The clinicians and staff at Ascent may suggest what they believe would be a good fit for a student, but it is not our place to say this kid should go to this program or that program."
In response to Lon's inquiry about the future of the Rocky Mountain Academy property (formerly Northwest Academy before Brown Schools switched properties), Denise said it is unclear right now as to what UHS plans to do with that property, but they have decided not to use the Rocky Mountain Academy name at this time because of the recent history associated with the program. "UHS is marketing to get a consensus on what type of school is needed and my recommendation and that of many consultants, is to open a middle school because there are not a lot of programs available for this age group."
As Ascent gears up for the grand opening, Denise said that about half of the program's core group is already in place and they plan to maintain a staff to student ratio of 1:4 for boys and girls, ages 13-17.3, with 24-7 coverage. "We are currently taking student referrals for both the regular Ascent program and the Ascent Intervention (AI) program, which I helped to design last year under CEDU."
Originally implemented in 2004 by CEDU, AI is a 3-21-day program specifically designed for students exhibiting behavioral problems after completing some sort of emotional growth, therapeutic, preparatory or wilderness school or program. "AI will only accept students who are in or have graduated from a school or program no more than six months prior to admission," Denise said. "In conjunction with referring parties, we will develop specific goals based on the individual needs of each student entering the AI program to help them refocus and get back into their program or family of origin. If a student is currently enrolled in another program, these goals will also be coordinated with the treatment team at their school of origin. AI is basically an aftercare program with a strong focus on getting them back into their school or home of origin, it is not the Ascent program."
Denise explained that her interest in creating this program originated when she realized that several of the Ascent students were being sent to North Idaho Behavioral Health (NIBH) for behavioral rather than mental problems. "A kid might have a bad night or couple of days and refuse to sleep in their bunk, or something minor. Due to the elimination of safe houses, they'd be sent to NIBH as a safety measure. In the AI program, they can spend up to 21-days but the average period is 9 to 10 days. As a result of this program, our actual attrition rate for the school dropped last year by about 70 percent."
Lon explained that this type of intervention is directly related to the long-term interests of Woodbury Reports. "We are modifying our emphasis to include the aftercare and family coaching industry. This expansion will allow us to be more versatile in what we offer to parents of struggling teens who are not necessarily appropriate for a long-term residential placement or the standard Ascent type of program."
Ascent invites consultants and parents to visit their new website for more information on both programs.