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Posted: Nov 19, 2008 18:14


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Springville, UT
Brent Esplin
Admissions Director

Visit by Larry Stednitz - November 3, 2008

Sommerset is a residential treatment program developed by Provo Canyon School. Although the program was originally developed for early adolescent boys in 1993, they moved to the current Sprinville, UT, campus in 2007 and added a complementary girls' program in June of this year. The program is specifically designed to work with boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 14. These young people struggle with behavioral, emotional and educational issues. Appropriate admissions criteria include self injury, poor peer relations, and parental conflict. A full range of diagnoses are accepted including Bi-polar, anxiety, social delays, depression, aspergers, ADHD, ADD ODD OCD and post traumatic stress disorders. Rule outs for Sommerset are those with significant run histories, severe assaultive behaviors and sexually reactive behaviors toward peers.. Students are described as behaviorally, emotionally and physically delayed.

Intellectually, students are selected on a case by case review and Sommerset will accept students with an IQ of 70 and above. Students with specific learning disabilities can be accommodated.

The program is housed in a 65,000 square foot facility that includes four cottages with a capacity of housing 32 youth each. The program currently has 42 students and is projected to eventually have a census in the 80's. Located in the valley in view of the Wasatch Mountain Range, Sommerset has a rural feel and offers ample space both in and out of the buildings.

The program leadership includes Jeremy Cottle, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Brad Gerrard, Chief Operating Officer and Larry Winn, MS, LMFT, the clinical director. Dr. Cottle has his doctorate degree in the philosophy, education and supervision with a minor in marriage and family studies. He is also an LCSW and has been a program director and therapist for five programs prior to Sommerset. Brad began his career in the early 90's at North Idaho Behavioral Health. Following NIBH, Brad served as the director of Business Development for Provo Canyon School and for Universal Health Services. Brad has also worked with Aspen Education Group as the Director of Business Development.

Larry Winn formerly worked as the clinical director for early adolescents at Provo Canyon School for four years and has twenty years experience working as a clinician at Provo. Larry reported that this young population requires a different approach than the older adolescent. Slight but important adjustments have been made. For example, the program has employed more female staff, emphasizing the importance of nurturing. Sommerset uses quiet rooms instead of time out rooms for self-soothing and de-escalation. The building was formerly built for an older adolescent population and the program is currently in the process of "downsizing" and transforming the various furnishings to meet the needs of a younger population.

Sommerset uses a multi-disciplinary approach to treating its young adolescent population, with licensed therapists, a Board certified psychiatrist and RN nursing staff who are on site seven days a week. The clinical director said that the overarching treatment philosophy underlying treatment includes relationship based approaches and mood regulation work. Specifically, the treatment includes medical management, individual weekly therapy, weekly family therapy via telephone, on-site family visits, gender specific groups, recreational therapy including winter and spring over night trips and weekly leisure activities such as swimming, fitness, snowshoeing, rope courses, rock climbing, fishing, skiing, and bowling. Recreational therapists oversee all therapeutic recreational therapy activities.

The year-around academic program covers higher elementary and middle school, grades 5-9 and includes gender specific classrooms. The teacher to student ratio is 1 teacher to 6 students for the elementary classes and 1 to 9 for the middle school. The individualized academic program includes special education services and year around programming. Fifty percent of the Sommerset teachers hold special education credentials and the other fifty percent are in process of obtaining them. Upon admission, each student is given a standardized achievement evaluation to pin point academic needs and to have a pre-and post treatment evaluation tool.

I toured the facility and was able to meet with a boy and a girl both from California. The girl had been at the program for only one month and the boy for eight months. "Mary" told me that she liked Sommerset and her only complaint was that she was used to more people in her life. Sommerset made it harder for her to "hide" and to do what she wanted to do. She said there were too many rules and she was always supervised. She had gotten off track at a young age and started using a myriad of drugs, frequently staying out all night with what she referred to as gangs. She was well groomed and animated during our conversation. She reluctantly told me that "this place is better than most." "Mike," the boy, was quieter and struggled with answering questions. Prior to meeting him, I was told that he was nearly mute when he first arrived. It was clear that he had trouble communicating, but he made great efforts and was able to respond to my questions. He said he liked the program and was happy that he was there. He said that he gets a lot of individual help. He acknowledged that he could communicate much better than he could when he arrived. Neither child, in part due to their age, were comfortable talking, but both were sincere in their answers.

While walking through the dining area and the school hallways, it was apparent that the students felt safe and were surprisingly quiet and orderly. The dining hall and the students there could have been in any middle school in the country. Noisy, but not rowdy!

The program is licensed by the Utah Department of Human Services, accredited by JCAHO, and accredited by the Northwest Association Accredited Schools.

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