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Former Forsyth Detention Center becomes youth assessment center

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

WINSTON-SALEM — This week, teens in the Piedmont area will have access to a new facility that, from the outside, looks like a sleep-away camp. There are eight one-bed locked rooms, classrooms, and dining and recreation areas.

But this is no camp. It’s the Bridges Crisis and Assessment Center, which serves at-risk youth ages 10 to 17 who are in contact with the criminal justice system.

The center, located at the former Forsyth County Juvenile Detention Center, 5550 Sturmer Park Circle, is a place for those troubled youths to receive a comprehensive assessment in a residential setting with the goal of matching the youth to the most appropriate services in his or her community.

The facility is the second of its kind in North Carolina, the other being Insight Juvenile Crisis and Assessment Center in Butner. Both are operated by the Methodist Home for Children in partnership with the state Department of Public Safety. Teens from the Piedmont region, which include Rowan, Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties, will benefit from the programs at the center.

The center is an alternative to a detention center, said William Lassister, deputy commissioner of juvenile justice at the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

“We wanted to open up a facility that can take in kids in crisis situations. We look at the physical, mental, educational health in partnership with the county,” Lassister said.

The county charged the center $1 a year to use the facility.

These teens may be waiting for placement in another facility in their own community or elsewhere, he said.

“This center can work together to best meet the needs of the child. It’s a collaborative of resources,” Lassister said.

Earlier in the week, the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice hosted counselors, youth advocates, and other juvenile justice staff and personnel at an open house and tour of the center.

Family Services Therapist Sherri Hill was one of those who toured the center. Hill, a Salisbury resident, works with youth in Davidson County who are 7 to 17 years old.

Oftentimes families with troubled youth are so overwhelmed, this center could also serve as “an intervention to separate the family from the child for a breather,” she said.

There is no residential, treatment component offered in her area and therefore the teens she counsels could benefit from the assessment center.

The center provides evaluation with testing in the areas of education, behavior, personality and intelligence. Some of the teens require a temporary out-of-home placement to stabilize their behaviors.

This center will be a way to tie all of the partners including the Department of Social Services, foster care, and mental health.

Assessment Center Director Sharon Singletary said experts discovered that many adult offenders were at some point involved in the criminal justice system as youths. This program is a way to prevent further court involvement.

The goal of the project is to also develop an effective plan of care for the kids, promote stronger families and assure safer communities, officials said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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