Radius, a new residential complex for troubled youth under construction at 50th and Grand Avenues, shares about 10 acres with a separate nonprofit, Metro Area Youth Services, which is in the former St. Paul Lutheran Church and school. (Courtesy of HDR)
OMAHA — A $25 million residential youth treatment center rising in North Omaha aims to fill a service gap in the metro area, one that has had courts and families sending some troubled teens off to other states to get help.
The new Radius nonprofit will feature a 24-bedroom facility for residents ages 12 to 18 years, along with behavioral, recreational and education programs and a stand-alone health clinic open to families and community.
Poised to open next summer at 50th and Grand Avenues, the alternative to more restrictive juvenile detention is designed to strengthen the entire family.
$25 million capital campaign
While a private philanthropist-driven campaign paid for construction, Radius is to operate with help from government funding via referrals from the state juvenile probation system and courts.
Staffed by Charles Drew Health Center, the partnering clinic will accept Medicaid and different insurance coverage plans.
Radius CEO Nick Juliano said the combination of a residential program with clinical support that can involve entire families will help Douglas County take care of its own youth and improve odds of long-term success as they grow in their community.
“Where we will be unique is that we will start that family work on the day of admission and have someone working with family throughout the youth’s stay,” said Juliano, previously director of Boys Town regional advocacy and public policy.
Currently, he said, youths who cross the law but are deemed better served outside of traditional jail too often are placed in residential treatment outside their home county or even out of Nebraska. He said that while there are local facilities addressing the need, those often are full. He said Radius supporters want to avoid keeping a youth in jail until a residential treatment spot opens.
Radius intends to be a “gap-filler,” he said, allowing local youths to get intense treatment nearer to family members who ideally become part of the antidote that propels the youths onto a more productive path.
Nearly 30,000 square feet of new space
Juliano said the typical Radius resident may suffer from a combination of extreme behaviors beyond law violations. Their needs may call for a place less intense than a psychiatric hospital but more than a traditional group home.
”They may have co-occurring mental health and substance abuse treatment needs. Our program is designed to deal with all of those as well as to have services that can continue on after they leave our programs.”
We have a continuum of services. ... Even with that, we had this group of youth that were not getting what they needed right here in Omaha. – Nick Juliano, chief executive of Radius
We have a continuum of services. ... Even with that, we had this group of youth that were not getting what they needed right here in Omaha.
– Nick Juliano, chief executive of Radius
Chris Rodgers, a Douglas County commissioner heavily involved in juvenile justice reform, said the county lauds Radius. He called it one of the “core tools” that could help fulfill a goal of keeping the population in the new downtown Omaha juvenile justice center only for those who need to be jailed.
That county detention facility, poised to open in 2023, has fewer beds than the current youth center, and Rodgers said the vision always was to have additional community resources to reduce reliance on jail for nonviolent youths.
The Radius campus plan, which includes nearly 30,000 square feet of new building space, was earlier met by concern and opposition from area residents when presented to the City Council. Security features were added before the council approved the project.
A next-door neighbor to Radius is Metro Area Youth Services (MAYS) — which is a separate nonprofit that recently moved to the former St. Paul Lutheran Church and school. Together, the youth-focused entities occupy about 10 acres.
Radius, formerly known as the Nebraska Youth Justice Initiative, emanated from an advisory committee assembled in 2019 to look at the shortfall of residential services for youths with trauma, mental health and substance abuse problems.
‘Radius’ name tells a story
On the advisory committee were government, mental health and other professionals, along with a parent and a young person who at one time had to leave the state to access the type of services that Radius will provide.
By then, much attention and time already had been spent in state and county government exploring justice reform.
“We have a continuum of services for these young people. It’s a very good continuum. Even with that, we had this group of youth that was not getting what they needed right here in Omaha,” Juliano said. “We are now filling that gap, very intentionally and focused so we’re not duplicating with others.”
The Radius name was designed to tell its story: “Trauma-informed care begins at the center, where the causes of personal struggles are identified then radiates toward healing and redemption.”
Youths likely will live on-site for nine months to a year, Juliano said, taking classes and earning credits under a program approved by the Nebraska Department of Education. They’ll receive therapies and recreational programming.
“It is a ripple effect that will benefit our youth, families, neighborhood and community,” he said.
Juliano emphasized that youths and families who are not involved in the juvenile justice system also can get help at the Charles Drew Health Clinic. He said the clinic services also aim to prevent problems and court intervention.
Radius is backed by philanthropic foundations. Board members include key representatives of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s psychiatry department, Charles Drew centers, Sherwood Foundation, Security National Bank and the legal profession.
Long-term success, said Juliano, is returning rehabilitated youths back home and keeping them and their family connected to a health provider.
“So they can be there safely without any more law violations. They can graduate high school and eventually are employed in our community.”
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