GA Centers To Close
City-Based Organization Notifies State, Employees Of Decision
Gustavus Adolphus Family Services, a longtime Jamestown-based organization that has provided a variety of services to at-risk youth and their families, announced it will be closing its Residential Treatment Center and Learning Center.
Located on Gustavus Avenue, GA Family Services said Friday it had filed a 90-day closure plan with the New York State Office of Child and Family Services and state Education Department.
The closure will impact 100 employees considered “direct care and ancillary support positions” with the nonprofit youth service organization. The employees were notified Friday afternoon of the decision.
Tom Holt, GA Family Services president and CEO, said re-evaluating residential treatment centers have been a “hot topic” across the state. He said organizations are becoming more focused on community-based programming and less on housing.
“These have been some of the conversations we have had for a few years now,” Holt told The Post-Journal.
Holt said in early January, discussions took place regarding the future of its two largest services — which are part of the Lutheran Social Services family. He noted that the facility housing the Residential Treatment Center is older and was not built to accommodate “newer treatment models” as caring for and educating at-risk youth in the state evolves.
“Aside from talent acquisition challenges, referral patterns for residential-style programs like GA Family Services have shifted in favor of more comprehensive programs aimed at treating these behavior challenged youth in more secure facilities,” Holt said.
Holt said GA Family Services has reduced its programs in a “natural progression” in recent years, including the closure of its group and boarding homes, in addition to the closure of the Supervised Independent Living Program and the limiting of the number of beds available in the institution.
At present, more than 60 youth attend the Learning Center, a school serving students with emotional and learning disabilities and other health impairments related to behavioral needs. About half of the students who attend the Learning Center live at the Gustavus Avenue facility as part of the treatment center, designed to help youth learn social skills through a trauma-informed care approach.
The remaining students at the Learning Center are transported daily from local school districts.
“When it comes to the at-risk youth currently in our care, we will be working closely with referring agencies, local and state governing bodies, community partners and area public schools to ensure that they all continue to receive the education, care and support they need during this process,” Holt said. “As for our dedicated employees, outplacement support and resources will be made available to them through the Human Resources office. We will also work with community partners to find employment opportunities for them after closure.”
GA Family Services will shift its focus to community-based programs, including foster care, the Regional Permanency Center, Pathways supervised visitation, Accountability and Responsibility after school program and health home care management.
The organization began an orphanage for Swedish immigrant children in the late 1880s. In the 1970s and ’80s, GA Family Services began serving at-risk youth, all of whom are referred to the group by multiple counties and court systems outside the area as well as local school districts.
Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello said officials are working with GA Family Services to ensure the “continuity of care” for students in the programs.
“It’s important that the students impacted receive continuity of care,” Borrello said. “That is what we have been focused on ensuring. It is part of the closure plan that is submitted to the state.”
“We will be working with GA Family Services, along with Chautauqua Works, to ensure that those employed there have the opportunity to fill open positions in the marketplace that meet their skills and training,” he continued.
Holt confirmed that the organization had received notification in mid-October that teachers at the Learning Center had plans to join the New York State United Teachers union. A source told The Post-Journal that the teachers had recently voted to unionize.
Holt said by October, discussions on the center’s future were already taking place.
“Work was well underway by that point,” he said, adding that the next chapter of GA Family Services is to pivot and focus on its other programs.
“I also want to make it clear, this will have no impact on the senior care Lutheran provides,” he said. “The two are not related.”