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Report examines strengths, challenges of PA congregate-care settings for teens

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Wednesday, November 8, 2023   

For young people with serious behavioral health challenges, a new report showed Pennsylvania's congregate-care settings may be the best option.

The report's authors surveyed 20 providers of congregate care, in facilities housing from about a dozen kids to almost 300.

Jaclyn Kreshock, director of children's behavioral health services for the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services and the report's co-author, said there is a growing movement to transition youth to more community-based and homelike settings. But feedback from the survey shows many young people still require the more comprehensive help that congregate care can offer.

"One of the key findings is that all of the services that the youth can access are located within that congregate care setting," Kreshock explained. "If it's not within that congregate care setting, the staff in that setting set services up with outside providers."

Kreshock pointed out such settings can be a comprehensive treatment option for young people when less restrictive services either are not available or have already been tried. The report reported for children with complex needs, it may be the only level of care at which they can thrive.

Kreshock added their survey found most youth in congregate settings who received collaborative care from a treatment team were able to be discharged, and they transitioned more smoothly into services afterward.

"Ninety-five percent of the congregate care providers reported that about 15 or more youth successfully discharged in fiscal year 2022," Kreshock noted. "Only 62% reported one to five youth experienced reentry."

She added successful discharge means the young person completed the goals in their treatment plan prior to being released.

Kreshock emphasized one challenge faced by the facilities is a workforce shortage, and more funding would help.

"I think that if the congregate care facilities are supported, and adequate funding is allotted to these facilities -- such as an increase in their daily rates -- that would definitely be a benefit to the youth with complex needs that require their services," Kreshock urged.

She said a juvenile court ruling, behavioral health needs and a lack of alternatives can all result in a young person being placed in congregate care.

Disclosure: The Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues, Education, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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