Published 03/13/2013 12:00 AM
DEEP RIVER - Mount Saint John School, in operation for more than 100 years as a residential treatment facility for at-risk boys and young men, will close its residential program effective June 21. The plan is for Mount Saint John to continue to provide educational, vocational, clinical, and life skills services to youth in need, Director Doug DeCerbo said in a statement.
The long-established residential treatment program provided a therapeutic environment, 24/7, to help young men between the ages of 13 and 18 develop the necessary skills to successfully return home to their school and community.
Budget constraints at the state level have severely reduced the number of referrals from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) to Mount Saint John. Fewer referrals from Superior Court Juvenile Matters have also contributed to a decline in the residential census. These budget-driven restrictions, along with the increasing cost of operation at the agency, have necessitated the closure of the residential program, DeCerbo's statement said.
The future of the remaining educational, vocational, clinical, and life skill programs is dependent on developing services that complement the evolving referral structure at the local Board of Education and state level. Discussions in this regard between the school and other funding and referral sources are ongoing.
DeCerbo added, "Mount Saint John remains committed to helping youth with family problems, substance abuse, neglect, and other challenges have a chance to build a better life."
On Feb. 1, faced with continuing declines in student numbers, the facility laid off 12 employees. At that time DeCerbo said he was in discussion with DCF to determine the status of the facility's residential program, but no determination had been made.
"Across the state, DCF has been looking to downsize residential programs. In that light, we decided to be proactive. We approached DCF to sit down with them and discuss our residential program, and other programs," DeCerbo explained in an interview last month.
On Feb. 1 the facility had 16 residential students and 62 staff members after the lay-offs. The future of those staff members is not known at this time.
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz has been clear about the direction of the agency since her appointment by Governor Dannel Malloy. She has emphasized a community-based, family-centered approach to the delivery of services to at-risk youth. As a result, residential programs such as those offered at Mount Saint John have been seeing fewer and fewer referrals from DCF, social service agencies, and the courts. Those who are considered for residential programs are most often being referred to state-run facilities rather than private providers such as Mount Saint John.
Located off Kirtland Street, Mount Saint John sits on 80 acres along the Connecticut River. It was established in 1904 as an "industrial school" staffed by the Xaverian Brothers, a Roman Catholic order. In 1919 it became an orphanage under the Sisters of St. Joseph and later evolved into a Home and School for Boys.