County Commissioners question high youth placement costs

Lycoming County is slated to spend $51,200 per month on seven juveniles placed under court order at a residential treatment facility for their violent crimes and felony charges. Commissioners questioned the cost Tuesday.

Efficiency and results should be looked into at George Junior Republic, a treatment and housing facility for at-risk children in Grove City, said Commissioner Tony Mussare

“We’re talking about a little over $7,000 a month for one child,” he said. “It all comes out of taxpayer’s dollars.”

If this large sum of money is to be spent on so few children, the commissioners should ensure the dollars are well-spent in the youths’ recovery, said Mussare.

“What’s critical is that we’re in an age of evidence-based practices and, when you see something costing the taxpayers an extreme amount of money, what evidence do we have that’s telling us it’s working?” he asked.

Ed Robbins, director of juvenile probation, said that although he recognizes the costs are high — and factored into court recommendations — the residential facilities keep the community safe, hold the individuals accountable and teach them skills to make better future decisions.

“Unequivocally my answer is that this is the best way to handle these kids,” he said. “These kids are off the charts when it comes to risk and needs scores.”

Although the county does initially pay the entire bill, the offices at juvenile probation as well as children and youth services typically are successful in receiving reimbursements from the state and federal government.

“When you factor in those reimbursements, social security reimbursements and total assessment, that drops it down from 100 percent from the county down to about 17 or 18 percent county money,” said Robbins.

The seven Lycoming County youths, aged 11 to 18 years old, are tracked by George Junior Republic for recidivism, academic levels and general future. Robbins said their scores were very good. Further, county case workers and juvenile probation officers, who visit the facility once a month, can provide supportive, qualitative evidence.

Through a graduated scale of escalation, both JP and CYS ensure that all other resources have been exhausted before a child is sent to the program.

George Junior Republic asked for a 7 percent increase in costs for additional programs and services, but Robbins said he was able to negotiate down to a 2.5 percent increase.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said the costs would save more money in the future.

“If we don’t try to intervene with George Junior Republic at this level, they could wind up later down the road at a facility that will cost us more money,” he said.

The board of commissioners are scheduled to vote on this matter at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Commissioners’ Briefing Room, Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.


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