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New youth diversion program says it’s never too late | July 26, 2023

NEW LEXINGTON — Perry County Juvenile Judge Luann Cooperrider and her staff are always on the lookout for unmet needs among the children and families they serve, and are ready to come up with new programs to address those needs when they’re serious enough.

 

 

 

New youth diversion program says it’s never too late | July 26, 2023

 

 

 

New youth diversion program says it’s never too late

By JIM PHILLIPS PERRY COUNTY TRIBUNE EDITOR  Jul 26, 2023 Updated Jul 26, 2023

The Juvenile Court's HorsePOWER equine therapy will be incorporated into its new U-Turn youth diversion program. This young man benefitted greatly from the emotional connection he made with an animal in Horse Power. SUBMITTED

 

Click HERE to view/download the U-Turn Program information brochure.

 

NEW LEXINGTON — Perry County Juvenile Judge Luann Cooperrider and her staff are always on the lookout for unmet needs among the children and families they serve, and are ready to come up with new programs to address those needs when they’re serious enough.

In March, for example, The Perry County Tribune reported on HorsePOWER, the Juvenile Court’s new equine therapy program for at-risk youth that launched last December. Now the court has another new offering in the works. It aims to intervene to help kids who are having problems at home, before those problems escalate into matters that might bring them before the court on charges.

The U-Turn program is set to begin Sept. 6. Cooperrider said the idea for it came from the many calls received by the court and local law enforcement, from parents and guardians reporting bad behavior by kids that doesn’t reach the level of being criminal.


“Let’s say a parent calls and says, ‘My child won’t clean their room,’ or ‘My child won’t listen to me,’ or do their homework,” Cooperrider explained. “Well, if law enforcement goes to the house, that’s really not a crime, you know – that’s more of a parent thing. Sometimes it escalates into arguing, or things like that. And we felt the need to develop a program that reaches those kids and families that aren’t yet in the system, but still have red flags for what’s going on in the home. That’s how U-Turn got started.”

She described it as “kind of diversion and redirection program,” whose motto is, “It’s never too late to get back on the right path.”

Kids aged 10-17 can be referred to the program by law enforcement, school, parents or guardians, the prosecutor’s office, or mental health agencies, if they have no current or pending criminal charges, are not on probation, and have not been through the program before. In certain cases, completing the program can be done in lieu of unruly or delinquent charges being filed against the youth.

Having obtained grant funding for the program from the Ohio Department of Youth Services, the court pulled together partners from local law enforcement and counseling agencies to design and implement it. For kids referred to the program (and their family members), it will provide a revolving series of six weekly classroom sessions on relevant topics. The topics were chosen, the judge said, based on some of the most common issues the court and police see in families that call for help.

One session will deal with mental health. “There’s really a need for mental health,” Cooperrider said. “Not only for the child, but sometimes the parents and everybody, the family.”

Another session will address tobacco, vaping and drug issues. A third will be about technology issues such as inappropriate cell phone use and “sexting” of photos.

There will be a session on workforce and goals, Cooperrider said, aimed at getting kids “on a path of employment... (helping them understand that) when you go to work, you can’t look at your phone all day long, those kinds of things; how to dress, being responsible.”

Rounding out the series will be classes on equine assisted learning, utilizing the court’s existing Horse Power program, and on restorative justice – which essentially boils down to taking responsibility, and making amends, for bad actions, which the judge said could mean paying restitution, apologizing, or simply making an effort to “understand where you live and be proud of where you live.”

A parent or guardian must participate in classes with the youth. For the adults, Cooperrider said, the program will offer help in areas such as “healthy habits, understanding their child’s behavior and what to do about it, practicing gratitude, things like that.”

The classes will be held at the new Perry County Job and Family Services Opportunity Center on state Route 37 in New Lexington. PCJFS will teach the workforce and goals classes; mental health will be covered by Perry Behavioral Health Choices and PATH Behavioral Healthcare; the tech class will be taught by the Somerset and New Lex police departments will help from Perry Behavioral Health Choices; the tobacco/vaping drugs session by local counselor Carrie Spears; and restorative justice by PATH.

“We’re going to do it on Wednesdays because Perry County Transit runs late on Wednesdays, and they’re going to help folks with transportation,” Cooperrider explained. “And we’re going to start it around 4 or 4:30, and transit runs through the evenings on Wednesdays. So we’ve thought out as many obstacles as we can. So let’s say we get a call, and some child would be appropriate in the third week of this program. They can still join, because it’s a revolving six weeks.”

The judge said she has high hopes for the program.

“We are really excited about this, and we have had incredible response from the community,” she said. “We’re so happy about that.”

Email at jphillips@perrytribune.com

 

 

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