By Stephen C. Schultz
The sky was blue and the air was dry. There was a faint smell of pinion pines and cedar in the air. The girls, in their early teens, rushed down to the water’s edge. There were the usual joyful screeches and high pitched screams as they hopped and danced into the chilly water. With life jackets secured, they swam and splashed like every normal teenage girl swimming at the local lake.
With three daughters of my own, it’s easy to see these teens at Discovery Ranch for Girls as simply friends and neighbors that my own kids hang out with. It’s only when you have knowledge of some of their very personal issues and poignant concerns that you start to understand just how different their life experience has been. Having struggled with adoption, self harm, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance experimentation, these teens have found themselves in an emotional state of mind and exibiting behaviors that warrants being placed with a residential treatment center like Discovery Ranch for Girls.
Because of the care and concern of their parents, these girls have been privately placed in an exclusive, personalized caring environment. An enviornment where they can discover their strengths and develop resilience around those issues they struggle with.
Please allow me to share some insight with you about Discovery Ranch for Girls. The precipitating factor for this post has simply been conversations with educational consultants and other allied health professionals as we tour DRG.
Over the last couple of months we have had numerous questions about why we expanded the Discovery Ranch therapeutic program. I think it’s important to share that our organization doesn’t “Grow” or look for additional “Market Share” like many of the large corporate organizations or those who are funded by venture capital money.
As you look at the growth of our organization over the last ten years, it has been Discovery Connections growing out of Discovery Academy to serve the “rough around the edges” student and provide career exploration and internships. The East Campus at Oxbow Academy was created to serve students with ASD and other developmental concerns as well as sexual issues. Years ago, Medicine Wheel at RedCliff Ascent was established to meet the needs of young adults, many of whom would transition from the adolescent program once they turned 18 yrs old. This allows families and students to make a seamless transition. All of our growth has been the result of recognizing a need within our current system of care and refining the services we provide to better meet the needs of our clientele.
As you may or may not be aware, Discovery Ranch started with a Boys program and a Girls program. They were in two separate homes on the same campus. Their academics were separate, their meal time was separate and even their off campus activities were separate. The time spent with the calves and chores were also separate. They did come together when clinically indicated by the clinical team, but other than that, it was two programs. We coined the term, “Single Gender Hybrid” to wrap a context around the innovative services we provided.
We ended up with a waiting list and were unable to reliably accept referrals from educational consultants and allied health professionals when they called. (98% of students are referred by educational consultants) So, we expanded to create dormitory space above the Cafeteria and we expanded once more to create an academic center. In less than a year we eventually reached the capacity of the Mapleton location again. We were faced with a decision to continue to grow that location and reduce the therapeutic effectiveness of the campus or turn away referrals from sources we had developed trusting relationships with. Neither was a desirable option. We had an opportunity to acquire the property in Cedar City.
The Discovery Ranch therapeutic model has been very effective with students and families over the years. We did not want to mess with that. By simply transitioning the girls as well as the Discovery Ranch model to the Cedar City location, we are able to maintain the quality of service provided and alleviate the organizational stresses that accompany a start up with one or two students. The Cedar City location hit the ground running with 28 students this last month.
As I have toured Discovery Ranch for Girls with consultants, allied professionals and clinicians, there is understandable amazement at the beauty of the campus. It truly is a wonderful location with some stunning facilities. There have also been many questions about our organization and the involvement of the leadership and administration. Simply stated, we are owner operated. With the economy still at a tenuous place and the recent closing of programs around the country, there is heightened interest in the financial stability of treatment programs in general. There is not much worse than for a referring professional to refer a family to a program, only to have that program close down soon after. It is important to know that we are wise stewards of our organizational resources and we make sure our business decisions are financially sound.
Not every teenage girl who struggles with an issue or concern needs Discovery Ranch for Girls. Most teens are able to navigate the adolescent stages of development just fine. However, there is a certain percentage of teens that need a caring and supporting environment with individualized and personalized treatment options; a place where families heal.