Luzerne County may support state grant application for new childhood trauma facility

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Luzerne County Council may vote Tuesday to authorize a state grant application for an entity that wants to build a new childhood trauma treatment facility in Foster Township, the agenda says.

The grant applicant — Change Academy Lake of the Ozarks, or CALO — is seeking a $3 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program Grant.

If approved, the county would not be financially responsible or liable for any aspect of the project, said county Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo.

State legislators must approve capital projects that could be eligible for program funding, and the governor ultimately has the power to decide which ones are funded.

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Nanticoke, said he wrote a letter of support for the project because it would provide significant economic development for the township and region, creating approximately 100 jobs with an average pay around $40,000.

However, Yudichak cautioned that endorsements from county council and legislators provide no guarantee because there is “extraordinary competition” across the state for the limited program funding. Around $125 million is available for projects statewide this year, he said.

Extensive vetting of all applicants also must be completed by the state budget office, Yudichak said.

Arizona-based CALO purchased the 72-acre property at 45 Country Place Lane for $2.2 million a year ago, county records show. The property previously housed the Country Place Retreat & Conference Center, online information says.

According to council meeting documents:

In addition to purchasing the land, CALO has obtained zoning and building permits and asked the county to seek the grant on its behalf to help fund infrastructure, utilities, site work, construction, renovations and furnishings. Four buildings at the site must be reconstructed, and two new structures would be built. The company would publicly seek bids if the grant is approved.

The total project cost is $6 million, and the company’s private match would be $3 million, including the purchase price.

When all beds are full, the facility would employee 100 — 60 direct care staff and 40 management.

The facility would house up to 50 students. The target population would be girls 13 to 17, primarily residing in the northeast part of the country. It will be a private, parent-choice program and not accept students who have been adjudicated for any offense or diagnosed with substance use disorder.

CALO currently operates similar programs in the country and is considered a leader in treating early childhood trauma.

The site near White Haven was selected because it is a “natural remote serene setting that can be maintained and enhance the CALO program model.”

The complex will include two canine retreat buildings with 20 to 25 purebred Golden Retrievers as part of a therapy pioneered by the company, which operates the largest such program in the country at its Missouri facility.

A pavilion at the site will be repaired and used for seminars, trauma-sensitive yoga classes and graduation ceremonies.

Township Supervisor Chairman Gerald Brogan and state Reps. Tarah Toohil (R-Butler Township) and Gerald Mullery (D-Nanticoke) also signed the same letter of support citing the project’s job creation and economic development benefits.

A leading network of cutting-edge clinical and therapeutic programs, CALO will create a “unique” Pennsylvania facility “dedicated to healing the effects of early childhood trauma,” the letter said.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse
Vote on application will come at Tuesday’s meeting

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.