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Hope. Second Chances. New Beginnings.

Focusing on adolescent mental health and well-being.

RRYA CEO: “The cuts will be devastating”

 

Following are public comments made by Red River Youth Academy CEO Amy Steely at the Nov. 2, 2017 Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) rate committee hearing regarding the consequences of mental health rate and service cuts that will take place if the state legislature fails to adequately fund the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services and OHCA before Dec. 1, 2017.

Good morning. My name is Amy Steely. I am the CEO of Red River Youth Academy. We are a 64-bed psychiatric residential treatment facility serving hundreds of children and adolescents from throughout the state each year.

The 9 percent cuts discussed today will be devastating to acute mental health facilities. What’s even more devastating is the 100 percent cut to outpatient and PRTF services that will begin in four weeks because our state legislature could not compromise on a budget.

What do we tell the DHS child welfare worker about the 14-year-old boy in their custody who is in the middle of residential treatment for severe childhood trauma? A child who has been moved from foster home to foster home for most of his life and is continually aggressive and defiant towards others.

Amy Steely 11-2-2017 SPARC meeting
Red River Youth Academy CEO Amy Steely

And what do we tell the parents of a 15-year-old girl who has been in multiple psychiatric treatment centers since age 6 and in detention centers as a teen? A child who is self-harming, being aggressive toward others, and has given up hope. With the help of her therapist and staff mentors she is just beginning to make progress and is starting to believe in herself for the first time in her life.

At Red River Youth Academy, we treat children with severe anger, aggression, and defiance issues. While society may misunderstand them as “bad kids”, we see them as children who are hurting. Who have been through painful trauma and need a higher level of treatment to start healing and adopt healthier thinking patterns and behaviors. Who will be there to help these children when all outpatient and residential resources are denied them?

Our mission is rooted in hope, second chances, and new beginnings. When the 100 percent cuts to PRTF care are implemented, there will be no hope, second chances, or new beginnings for these children. The suffering and negative outcomes will be tragic. And the ripple effect will be vast.

It is inconceivable that the status of Medicaid reimbursement for health and mental health care in our state has deteriorated to such a sad place.

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Happy Halloween from the Red River Pumpkin Patch

Our residents did a great job planting, tending, and harvesting two varieties of pumpkins in our very own pumpkin patch this year. This week, they also enjoyed fun games, crafts, and trick-or-treating throughout our facility.
pumpkin collage

State budget crisis puts Oklahoma’s psychiatric residential treatment facilities for children in danger of closing

The futures of children struggling with behavioral health conditions are in the hands of Oklahoma legislators; bipartisan support for passage of the cigarette tax is needed 

Do we want children in our state to struggle with behavioral health conditions that cause continuing problems in the home, at school, and in communities? Or do we want to give them the tools to thrive and grow into productive adults capable of healthy relationships with others? Those are key questions posed to state legislators by Amy Steely, a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Red River Youth Academy.

Last week, Commissioner Terri White of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services announced that SoonerCare will run out of money to pay for psychiatric residential treatment services for children on Dec. 1 if the legislature does not make-up for the $215 million shortfall created when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the $1.50 cigarette fee unconstitutional.

According to ODMHSAS data, more than 100,000 children received behavioral health services through SoonerCare in 2016. Of those children, 3,923 of them had conditions so severe that they sought care at a psychiatric residential treatment facility. Red River Youth Academy provides residential treatment for children and adolescents experiencing severe anger, aggression and defiance. In 2016, the facility treated children from 82 cities and 43 counties across Oklahoma – from Beaver to Locust Grove, Hobart to Antlers. The facility employs more than 65 staff who have special training to work with children with behavioral health conditions and a history of trauma.

“These children are often misunderstood because of their behavior, when they really need help processing trauma,” said Steely. “Some of our residents are unable to trust or respect adults and authority figures because they were the source of their trauma and pain, or they never had a chance to bond with a parental figure in a healthy way.”

Amy Steely 4 JPG
Amy Steely, LPC. CEO

Severe abuse and neglect changes the chemistry and structure of the developing brain. Research indicates we have until age 22 to structurally change that damage.

“Treatment helps develop patterns and habits that cause pathways in the brain to be stronger than the aggressive, frontal cortex pathways,” said Steely. “Habits cannot be fixed in seven days of acute care. Children need time to process their past, learn and practice appropriate responses to triggers, adopt healthy coping skills, and rebuild bonds. The clinical professionals and positive role models they work with in residential treatment help do that. This important work takes time and cannot be addressed simply with a short hospital stay.”

If the state budget crisis continues, psychiatric residential treatment facilities across the state will be in jeopardy of closing their doors, access to residential treatment will only be available across state lines to those with commercial insurance or who can afford to pay out of pocket, and hundreds of specially trained behavioral health professionals will lose their jobs. Ancillary businesses that provide these facilities with goods and services, such as food, linens, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals, will also take a financial hit.

“For the sake of children, families, and communities across Oklahoma, we urge our legislators to find common ground and agree on a budget solution that includes a recurring revenue source to preserve funding for mental health services for the long-haul,” Steely said.

Time to Rally to Save Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Oklahoma

On Oct. 18, Commissioner Terri White of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services announced that SoonerCare reimbursement for all psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF) services and outpatient services will end on Dec. 1, 2017 if the legislature does not find funding to make up for the significant budget hole that was created when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the $1.50 cigarette fee unconstitutional. If members of the legislature choose to put politics over people by failing to find a solution, the result will be devastating to the many children in critical need of mental health treatment in our state.

We must ensure that every member of the Oklahoma Legislature understands the serious toll these cuts would have on some of the most vulnerable children in our state. We encourage you to share this urgent message with legislators and fellow community members about this important issue. Together, we can ensure our friends, family and neighbors continue to have access to the treatment they need to survive and thrive.

Why Action Is Necessary

In 2016, 100,813 children younger than 21 received behavioral health care services through SoonerCare. Of those children, 3,923 of them had conditions so severe that they sought care at a psychiatric residential treatment center, and 74,537 children received outpatient behavioral care.

Cutting reimbursement for residential and outpatient treatment would have a devastating impact on the future of our kids, families and communities throughout Oklahoma.

If lawmakers fail to act and allow these cuts to go into effect, the impact will result in:

  • Closure of residential behavioral health treatment facilities – eliminating access to needed care.
  • Overcrowding in our hospital emergency rooms due to behavioral health treatment being sought there – decreasing much-needed access to acute care.
  • Increases in suicide rates, self-harm rates, substance abuse, assault and battery, child abuse and homelessness.
  • Overcrowding and dangerous conditions in detention centers and jails costing local governments and taxpayers millions of dollars.
  • Lack of safe resources and treatments for child welfare to provide parents and children, including residential and outpatient mental health treatment and abuse prevention programs.
  • There will be higher demand for, and less access to, acute psychiatric beds.
  • With these critical services at risk, the burden for caring for children and adults with mental illness will be shifted to schools, police departments, hospital emergency rooms, detention centers, DHS, Office of Juvenile Affairs, and courts – resulting in a drain on their staffs and resources at a time when there is no new funding available.
  • Oklahoma families will have to pay out of pocket to send their children to other states for treatment.

About Our Services & the Youth We Serve

At Red River Youth Academy, we treat children and adolescents with severe anger, aggression, and defiance. These children are often misunderstood because of their behavior, when they really need help processing trauma. Some of our youth are unable to trust or respect adults and authority figures because they were the source of their trauma and pain, or they never had a chance to bond with a parental figure in a healthy way.

Severe abuse and neglect changes the chemistry and structure of the developing brain. Research indicates we have until age 22 to structurally change that damage. Treatment helps develop patterns and habits that cause pathways in the brain to be stronger than the aggressive, frontal cortex pathways. Habits cannot be fixed in 7 days of acute care. Children need time to process their past and rebuild bonds, and the positive role models they work with in residential treatment helps do that.

Parents also receive counseling to rebuild parenting skills.

How You Can Help: Join Our Efforts Today!

Oklahoma mental health providers, hospitals, advocates, consumers, law enforcement, district attorneys, and others have come together to educate lawmakers on the importance of mental health funding and treatment. This coalition is demanding legislators find a solution to this crisis – one that puts people over politics and ensures access to needed mental health services.

State legislators need to hear from you! Make calls, send emails, attend the Save Our Services rally at the Capitol on October 24, from 10 a.m. to noon, and share our messages with others.

To find your Representative or Senator, please visit: http://www.oklegislature.gov/ and enter your address in the “Find My Legislator” box at the bottom of the homepage.

About Red River Youth Academy: In 2016, Red River Youth Academy treated approximately 250 children from 82 cities and 43 counties across Oklahoma – from Beaver to Locust Grove, Hobart to Antlers. We employ more than 65 staff who have special training to work with children with behavioral health conditions and a history of trauma. Red River Youth Academy is dedicated to advocating on behalf of the children and families we serve to ensure they have access to the services and support they need.

Behavioral Health Services for Boys Ages 8-11 Added at Red River Youth Academy

Boys unit grapic

Red River Youth Academy is pleased to announce the Sept. 1 opening of its new boys’ unit, offering residential behavioral health treatment to boys ages 8-11. The facility focuses on treating youth with severe anger, aggression, and defiance, and continues to provide services for adolescent males and females, ages 12-17.

“Expanding our program to 8- to 11-year-old boys offers more resources for families of boys with behavioral health conditions that require a higher level of treatment,” said Amy Steely, Red River Youth Academy CEO. Common behavioral health conditions treated at the facility include oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, disruptive mood disregulation disorder, reactive attachment disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depressive disorders, and other mood disorders.

Located in Norman, Okla., Red River Youth Academy treats youth from across Oklahoma and surrounding states. Its treatment program includes individual, group, and family therapy; recreational activities; on-site school; and medication management. Staff includes licensed professionals from the disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, counseling, social work, nursing, dietary services, and special education. All staff are trained in trauma-informed and trauma-responsive care.

Red River Youth Academy is accredited by The Joint Commission and licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The facility accepts SoonerCare, private pay, and most insurance.

For more information, call 405-701-8530 or visit www.RedRiverYA.com.

 

Insiders’ opinions about residential treatment at Red River Youth Academy

Continual feedback is an important part of the process improvement efforts at Red River Youth Academy. We value the opinions and feedback provided by our clients and their parents/caregivers at discharge from our program.

 

During the first quarter of this year, 46 parents and 51 clients completed satisfaction surveys at discharge.

 

  • 96 percent of clients agreed that they learned helpful coping skills during their treatment, and that they were very satisfied with the treatment they received.
  • 94 percent of clients agreed that they felt better at discharge than when admitted.
  • 93 percent of parents/guardians agreed that they were satisfied with the quality of care their child received, that their child’s therapist was accessible, and that staff were helpful and professional.
We always appreciate it when parents and caregivers leave us their heartfelt comments when their children complete our program. Here is what a few of them had to say:
 
“We feel that Red River is head and shoulders above the other places that (our son) has been to. We believe that he actually received the treatment and coping skills he needed to excel in life. Thank you for your help!”
 
“Compared to other places, I am happy to see that people at Red River care about the patients and the problems they have. They aren’t treating kids like another number or problem child.”
 
“Thank you for the care you have provided for my son. You all played an essential role in our lives during this time. I will never forget the support and care. Much gratitude.”

New Adolescent Female Unit Added at Red River Youth Academy

girls unit graphic for FBRed River Youth Academy is pleased to announce the opening of its new adolescent female unit, offering residential behavioral health treatment to girls 12-17. The facility focuses on treating youth with severe anger, aggression, and defiance, and continues to provide services for adolescent males. Red River will begin admitting adolescent females on April 3.

“We saw a great need in our state and decided to add treatment services for adolescent girls after receiving a growing number of calls from parents looking for help,” said Amy Steely, Red River Youth Academy CEO. Statistics from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services show an increasing number of adolescent girls received mental health services over each of the past six years.

Located in Norman, Red River Youth Academy treats youth from across Oklahoma and surrounding states. Its treatment program includes individual, group, and family therapy; recreational activities; on-site school; and medication management.

The new adolescent female unit is housed in a separate building from the facility’s adolescent male unit. Staff includes licensed professionals from the disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, counseling, social work, nursing, dietary services, and special education. All staff are trained in trauma-informed and trauma-responsive care.

Red River Youth Academy is accredited by The Joint Commission and licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The facility accepts SoonerCare, private pay, and most insurance.

For more information, call 405-701-8530 or visit www.RedRiverYA.com.

 

Basquine named Clinical Director of Red River Youth Academy

basquine-headshot
AJ Basquine, LPC, Clinical Director

Red River Youth Academy is pleased to announce the appointment of AJ Basquine, LPC, as clinical director. Basquine has been a member of the residential treatment center’s counseling staff since 2012, working with adolescent boys with severe anger, aggression, and defiant behaviors. He has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Human Relations with an emphasis in counseling from the University of Oklahoma. He completed a counseling internship in residential treatment for adolescent boys at Varangon Academy. He also has experience in outpatient counseling.

 

“We are excited to bring AJ’s positive attitude and energy to our administrative team,” said Amy Steely, LPC, CEO of Red River Youth Academy. “AJ brings not only knowledge of our systems to the position, but he has also been instrumental in assisting with process improvements to our clinical department.  Over the last two years, he has taken on additional duties to improve the treatment program at Red River.  AJ has also demonstrated a strong dedication to becoming an advocate to our clients as well as his team members.”

Basquine’s mother worked in mental health, and he says he has always had a desire to help people one-on-one. “I didn’t know what to expect about working at a residential facility for adolescent boys with severe behavioral issues, but I found that I liked the crisis management aspect of it and being able to be a strong role model for young men.”

What Basquine finds most rewarding about working with adolescents is helping clients go from telling their story to deciding what their story will be. “We get to work with boys and their families starting from severed ties to reconnecting and rebuilding their relationships; to understand the hurt and start to restore,” he said. “You have to have a heart for it. You don’t give up.”

As clinical director, Basquine looks forward to working with Red River Youth Academy’s interdisciplinary team in continually enhancing the facility’s therapeutic program and providing hope, second chances, and new beginnings for adolescent boys and their families.

What residents think about their care

Earlier this month we shared results from our 2016 parent/guardian surveys, providing a snapshot of their level of satisfaction with the quality of adolescent behavioral health care and services provided at Red River Youth Academy. Our residents’ feedback is equally important, and we end the month with highlights from our 2016 resident surveys.

  • 97% of residents agreed that they understand the importance of following their discharge plan.
  • 97% agreed that their therapist responded to and addressed their needs.
  • 93% agreed that they knew their treatment plan goals.
  • 93% agreed that they felt better at discharge than when admitted.
  • 91% agreed that overall, they were very satisfied with their treatment.

In addition to surveying residents at discharge, we also conduct monthly Client Advisory Board meetings, where two residents from each of three units meet with our staff and provide helpful feedback about our program and facility, and offer their ideas for enhancing the resident experience.

In 2017, we look forward to continuing to enhance our therapeutic program and further our mission of hope, second chances, and new beginnings for our residents and their families.

*Data is from 222 surveys completed by Red River Youth Academy residents throughout 2016.

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