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Woodside set to close October 1

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 6:28 PM EDT
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COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Woodside is shutting down on October 1. That’s according to the Vermont Department of Children and Families, which runs the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center. Woodside was the state’s only juvenile detention center for years. Now, the one person lodged there is at another facility. Commissioner Sean Brown with the Department for Children and Families said it’s going to stay vacant because they’re shutting it down.

“The building itself which is really substandard and prison-like,” he said, “really isn’t appropriate for youth.”

That decision is celebrated by the Vermont Defender General’s Office, which represents the young people who end up at Woodside. Marshal Pahl is the Juvenile Defender General. He says Woodside is not a place that fosters rehabilitation and growth.

“Once they’re out of that environment, their behavior changes dramatically,” he said, “it’s an environment that really fosters kids to be oppositional and reactive.”

Brown says that while they’re still hosting discussions with other private and community providers. At this time, he believes that they will be moving forward with Becket Family Services.

“We believe that is the direction that makes the most sense for Vermont youth,” he said, “and that’s why we’re moving as quickly as possible in that direction.”

Vermont DCF has a longstanding relationship with Becket Family Services, a nonprofit that says it helps hard-to-reach children and adults. It has multiple locations in the Northeast. Defender General Pahl says it’s a natural fit.

“Probably the most used of any sort of single provider-programs by DCF,” he said.

The plan is Becket will upgrade an existing facility in Vermont so that it’s secure enough to meet DCF standards, and will have at least five beds. But Brown says they can’t release other details yet about what it will look like or where it will be.

“We’re moving forward to negotiate the programmatic side of it, of the treatment services that we’ll deliver,” he said, “once we get more detail that this is going to be a viable facility.”

He also added the new facility will be less expensive than what it costs the state to operate Woodside, and their estimated $4.6 million budget to operate Woodside will be cut significantly if the facility is closed by October 1.

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