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Posted: Aug 31, 2004 15:42

THE WALKER CENTER

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Gooding, Idaho
Bud Starr, Director of Finance & Operations
800-227-4190
help@thewalkercenter.org
www.thewalkercenter.org

Visit by: Lon Woodbury August 17, 2004

Located on 25 acres on the edge of Gooding, ID, the Walker Center has been a growing quality residential treatment program since 1976 serving central Idaho. I have heard several comments from professionals throughout the state of Idaho that the Walker Center is one of Idaho’s best-kept secrets. They have outpatient centers in Hailey, Burley and Twin Falls serving both adults and children. One year ago, they moved into a brand new, well-equipped center that houses a 16-bed adolescent wing devoted to a wide range of adolescent disorders, and is especially strong in substance abuse. The average length of stay is from four to six weeks.

Bud Starr gave me a complete tour of the physical plant and it is very impressive. The center is designed for all needs, and capable of future growth, potentially doubling their capacity. The interior is mostly carpeted in restful, soft color tones, with paintings on the wall and artwork displayed throughout the center. I paid special attention to the adolescent wing. The rooms were neat and clean, so obviously keeping the environment orderly is an important part of the program. Keeping the males and females in separate quarters is a priority. There is some well-controlled interaction between males and females, but they emphasize that they have found the physical separation facilitates single gender work, something often vital to the healing of adolescents.

The landscaping is coming along, but with a long way to go, it reflects the newness of the building. They observe that their kids especially, have a lot of energy to run off, so part of the landscape includes a quarter mile running track, a volleyball court, various exercise stations, climbing walls and a ropes course, which includes one of the longest high-rope zip runs I have seen. They also have an outdoor horse arena, and one member of their staff is just a month away from obtaining EAGALA certification, with plans to develop an equine therapy element for the program.

A major emphasis in the program is family work/recovery. It is so important that they will not enroll an adolescent if the family does not commit to regular participation. The staff says that one of the saddest situations is when a family reneges on its promise to participate, which always brings up serious abandonment issues on the part of the child. All members of the family, including siblings, are invited and encouraged to participate. The family sessions are weekly, but when physical attendance is not possible, they hold the sessions by phone. They have found those phone sessions have been about as successful as ones with physical attendance, indicating that phone work has some advantages, along with obvious disadvantages. The advantages are that some families will feel more comfortable being physically in their home, and some adolescents participate better when they are not physically confronted by their family’s body language. Of course, the preferred method is the whole family being physically present since the staff then has the whole range of verbal and nonverbal communication that they can help the family process.

Part of the program is their spirituality sessions, which they emphasize is very different from religion. Building on the concept of an undefined “Higher Power” as found in the 12-Steps, these sessions are basically designed to help the resident find what values he/she is living by, and then if those values are questionable or self-destructive, help them find values that serve them better.

The Walker Center is proud of their reputation serving young people in the state of Idaho, and has decided they want to take their experience and record of accomplishment to attract parent-choice, private pay parents from around the country. They have at least one independent educational consultant who is currently referring to them, with good results. They will have staff attending the IECA Conference this November in New Orleans, and the NATSAP conference in Tucson. They are anxious for the opportunity to meet other consultants and explain how they might be able to help those consultants’ clients.




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