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Posted: Aug 23, 2006 16:09


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Omaha, NE
Tracy Wells
Director of Donor Relations

Visit by: Larry Stednitz, July 22, 2006

Uta Halee Girls Village and Cooper Village (UH/CV) are gender specific psychiatric residential treatment programs located on separate campuses in the hills north of Omaha, Nebraska. The programs, established as a not-for-profit company 55 years ago, provide psychiatric treatment for youth who also require a secure environment. The company has a wealth of experience in treating difficult youth.

The program works with boys and girls with serious problems who have myriad mental health disorders including PTSD, major depression, bi-polar, anxiety, attachment issues and the whole range of Axis 2 disorders. The majority of clients also have extensive alcohol and drug issues. A very high percentage of youth have extensive histories of trauma, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Learning disabilities are also prevalent and addressed in the programming.

UH/CV is developing the "Sanctuary Model" of care within their organization. Founded by Dr. Sandra Bloom, the model is a comprehensive trauma-informed method that will enable them to provide a cohesive context (milieu) within which healing can be addressed. The model has recently been developed by residential programs for children. The model is intended to create a culture of non-violence, emotional intelligence, social learning, communication, social responsibility, and growth and change.

The programs employ a multi-disciplinary treatment team approach, which includes traditional psychiatric treatment, individual, group and family therapies. The programs employ a full-time psychiatrist who provides clinical oversight to the program and is also a treating psychiatrist along with two part-time treating psychiatrists.

The programs use an individualized approach to treatment by utilizing a range of therapeutic models. They employ therapists dually licensed in both psychotherapy and substance abuse treatment. The programs use a well-developed level system that monitors and shapes the clients' behaviors. The level system allows clients to move into living quarters where they have improved privileges and amenities.

Each campus offers self-contained academic programs that provide traditional educational approaches augmented by 12 special education teachers who serve the clients. The schools are educationally approved by the Nebraska Department of Education, the facilities are licensed by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and both programs are accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.

The programs also integrate Equine Experiential Learning and Equine Assisted Therapy that include a licensed health professional and a certified horse specialist. These professionals work with the clients to meet their specific needs. The Equine Therapy staff are trained by and are members of EGALA and the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. They are also members of the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association.

The uninitiated think of Nebraska as endless flatland and uneventful landscapes, but this is not the case in eastern Nebraska where the picturesque landscape makes for an ideal treatment environment. Along the Missouri River, the rolling hills are scattered with heavily wooded forests, beautiful pastures and a variety of trees. Animal life is plentiful with deer, turkeys, raccoons and opossums roaming around. The girls' campus covers 30 acres of heavily wooded land, while the boys live in an area filled with rolling hills and pastures interspersed with trees. The girls' program is housed in large attractive cottages, and the well-maintained cottages are sufficiently spaced apart to provide an atmosphere of hominess and separation that fits well into the rural atmosphere of Nebraska. The boys' cottages, situated on 100 acres adjacent to the equine therapy headquarters, have a view of rolling hills, white fences and horses. Both campuses have their own academic programs, recreational areas and access to the equine therapy services.

The female client who toured me around the cottage had been in treatment at the girls' program for well over a year. She was eager and seemingly proud to show me every nook and cranny of her cottage. When asked how she liked the program, she said, "It's not so bad." However, her enthusiasm showed me just how happy she was to show off her cottage. She introduced me to the other girls who were well groomed and participating in an educational film. Three boys toured me through one of the boys' cottages. All three boys came to Cooper Village after failing an outpatient substance abuse diversion program. They all seemed to enjoy showing me around the cottage and told me that the program was very helpful to them. One told me he was learning that he could live without chemicals and that they were not critical for his life. They all agreed that the level system was very helpful in teaching them how to be accountable. They also discussed how the group work gave them insights into what was behind their alcohol and drug use.

Dennis McCarville, the President/CEO of UH/CV has been in his position for over 26 years. With 24 years at the program, the clinical director is Donna Lenz, LMHP, CMSW. Both Jude T. Connelly, MSW, Group Living Coordinator and Pegg Siemek-Asche, LMHP, LCSW, PLADC, Admissions Supervisor have been employed by UH/CV for the past 8 years. The director of education, Paul Weber has been with the program for 17 years. Many of the staff have multiple years with the program which provides excellent stability.

Uta Halee and Cooper Village are well-staffed and well-experienced programs for youth who require intense psychiatric care and substance abuse treatment. The programs are capable of working with those youth who are at high risk for run behaviors or who require a high staff-to-client ratio. With over 300 employees for 120 clients, UH/CV assures a standard high ratio.

UH/CV also provides a lower level of care with clients "stepping down" to the Treatment Group Home.

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