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Posted: Apr 21, 2006 08:21


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Erda, Utah
Sarah Armstrong
801 913 0688

Visit By: Larry Stednitz, March 20, 2006

Utah Youth Village, a non-profit charity organization, developed Alpine Academy five years ago as an all girls program. Aside from Alpine Academy, Utah Village works primarily with public pay youth who are wards of the court.

Alpine Academy is located approximately 20 miles west of Salt Lake City, UT, and consists of four large 5,000 to 7,000 square foot buildings, including a remodeled barn that accommodates the recreational and physical fitness equipment, attractive homes and horse facilities. Nestled in a sparsely populated area of Utah, this rural setting is picturesque with the houses located in a valley at the foot of the Oquirrh Mountains. The area gives the appearance of an upscale neighborhood with large homes throughout the area.

Licensed as a residential treatment center, Alpine Academy accepts girls with a wide range of diagnoses and works with girls who have suicidal ideation, but will contract for safety. Alpine Academy also accepts girls who continue to exhibit cutting behaviors, IQs as low as 80 and those with learning disabilities. Alpine does not accept girls with psychotic features not under control, acutely suicidal, assaultive or serious elopement risks.

Alpine Academy uses the Teaching Family Model, the same model used at Boys Town, and has integrated this model with their clinical activities. This allows the program to expand its teaching skills beyond the basic skill based approaches of teaching them to follow directions, accept no for an answer, accept feedback, and learn to disagree appropriately. Alpine Academy is thought to be the only private pay program in the country that is certified by the Teaching Family Association.

The Family Teaching model includes using married couples as house parents. This model helps reduce the common problems of the girls manipulating the night and day shifts. Alpine offers a family type of environment with a 1:5 staff to student ratio. The program capacity is 40 students with 10 girls living in each of the four homes.

The staff therapists use a variety of therapeutic components including the Family Teaching Model, eclectic, and cognitive behavioral approaches as well as an EAGALA trained equine therapist. The Family Teaching model includes a token economy point system that tapers off as the girl's progress in the program. Each girl participates in individual, group, family therapy and psycho-educational group therapies weekly. The groups cover many areas such as adoption, self-esteem, social skills, etc. Family therapy occurs weekly via telephone.

Alpine bases its academic curriculum on the State of Utah's core curriculum, and contracts with Woodland Hills School in Salt Lake City. They are in the process of building a new school facility for the academic component of the program. Once the new facility is complete, the program will further integrate the Family Teaching Model in its programming.

Physical education and recreation are important aspects the program. The girls participate in circuit weight training, soccer, rock climbing, volleyball, basketball and tennis as well as community service projects, equine therapy and leisure riding.

I visited one of Alpine's classrooms where the girls appeared well engaged in working on their art projects. The classroom was orderly and though understandably reserved, the group could easily be from any typical high school. I found that many of the girls came from California and they seemed comfortable discussing the program with me. Even those who appeared uncomfortable attempted to explain what they were doing.

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