City, county contribute to area juvenile intervention services

City and county contributions may have saved a program that provides state-mandated intervention services for juveniles.

The Moffat County Crisis Intervention and Community Evaluation Team was hit by a double-whammy of state cuts that reduced their funding by half for programs that work to keep juveniles out of detention and cut the number of detention beds from a nearly unlimited number to four in the 14th Judicial District.

"It was kind of a harsh blow to our program when we lost our (state) funding and then they capped the number of beds," said Kelly Reynolds, CIT/CET director. "We were definitely thinking we'd have to cut back on our services if the city and county didn't kick in."

In response, the city offered $12,000 and the county $31,656 to keep the programs running at their current service levels.

Those funds, plus United Way, a grant and the reduced state funds

will keep the programs active for another year.

The Crisis Intervention Team provides crisis intervention for juveniles on an on-call basis in cases of runaways, criminal actions or out-of-control situations.

They perform state-mandated "detention screenings" to determine whether a juvenile can be returned to their parents or whether detention is necessary. They'll refer them, if necessary, to Social Services, a therapist or to an adult-juvenile mentoring program.

"The services we do are mandated and they're not sure how we going to pay for them," Reynolds said. "This (program) is not something we can do without."

The Community Evaluation Team provides tracking services for youth involved in the criminal justice system and helps them determine and follow a release plan, which could include going to school, maintaining a certain grade point average, making appointments and court dates and meeting curfews.

"Basically we become second mothers, sort of," Reynolds said. "Basically, we make sure they toe the line while charges are pending."

Then, they report to the court about how the juvenile has followed the release plan.

The system helps keep juveniles in the area, in a familiar school system and with their parents as opposed to being removed to another county for detention. It also keeps what beds are available free for hard-core offenders because a system is in place that provides alternatives for other offenders.

"We have to juggle beds to make room for the most appropriate offender," Reynolds said. "It's kind of an all or nothing alternative."

CIT handles nearly 100 calls a year in Moffat County and CET tracks an average of 25 to 30 cases a year. Reynolds handles those cases with the help of three part-time

team members.

Police Chief Walt Vanatta said the services provided by CIT/CET are crucial.

"There are certain things kids have to be screened for and they are our screening mechanism," he said. "If they go away, we've got no screening mechanism to meet our statutory responsibility."

The program not only provides screening services but also supervises the juveniles until they are released to their parents or until they are transported to a juvenile facility.

"Otherwise, an officer would be stuck there for however long," Vanatta said. "It's far more cost effective for them to do that than us."

Vanatta pushed for the city to provide funding for CIT/CET.

"Part of the problem with juvenile justice in the state is the options for dealing with juveniles -- particularly violent juveniles -- is really becoming limited," he said.

Moffat County United Way doubled its contribution to CIT/CET in 2003 from $5,000 to $10,000, another critical factor in keeping the program alive, Reynolds said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 814-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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