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DHHS Announces development of Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center System

Three locations will create continuum of care that serves diverse needs


Lincoln – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announces next steps to strengthen services and programming at its Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTCs). The YRTCs serve juvenile offenders 14 through 18 years old who are placed there by the courts.


DHHS is developing a YRTC System. The goals of the system are to:

  • Provide appropriate level of care for youth and security for all as they progress in their treatment.
  • Implement targeted interventions to high-acuity, at-risk youth separate from the core group of youth who are positively responding to programming.
  • Develop population specific programming (gender, acuity, culture, linguistics and race) and programming based on a youth’s progress and needs for transitioning back to the community.

“We are committed to ensuring an environment that is safe, supportive and gives the youth we serve an opportunity to thrive as they move into adulthood,” said Dannette R. Smith, Chief Executive Officer of DHHS. “The development of the YRTC System creates a continuum of care that serves their diverse needs.”


The system is based on a three-pronged approach that includes three campuses – YRTC-Kearney, YRTC-Lincoln and YRTC-Geneva.



The system includes current services provided at the Kearney campus. YRTC-Kearney is the hub for the YRTC System and will provide intake, assessment and programming for the core group of youth. Programming is based on the Phase model, which assesses youth behavior from admission through discharge. The Phase model is an incentive based program in which youth are scored daily on their compliance with the program, interactions with their peers and their interactions with staff. A youth’s scores dictate their movement through the program and identifies which incentives they are eligible to receive.


YRTC- Lincoln

Services will be established at Lancaster County Youth Services Center, which has the capacity of 20 individual rooms divided between two separate pods, a day room and a separate secure outdoor recreational space. This location will be known as YRTC-Lincoln.


Youth who will be relocated to YRTC-Lincoln have unique needs and require targeted behavioral programming specific to these needs. This location will provide intensive programming for youth who are not responding to treatment at Kearney. New programming will be developed to serve both male and female youth with high behavioral acuity and will include intensive behavioral modification programming, family treatment and family support.


This will establish a model for successful transition for youth back to YRTC-Kearney where they can continue core programming or integrate back to the community. The facility provides the appropriate physical structure and security required to serve high-acuity youth. Once the youths’ behaviors have stabilized and they are responding to programming, they will return to the main campus at Kearney for continuation of the treatment program. Operations will be phased into this location starting in January 2020 to allow for appropriate adjustment for both youth and staff development.


The system also includes re-establishing services at the YRTC-Geneva campus. The primary purpose will be working with female youth who will be transitioning back into the community. This program will serve 3-6 females who will live in the recently repaired LaFlesche Cottage.


Youth who will be transitioning back to the community have different needs from those that are within the core population. The youth will need to be in an environment that is less restrictive and mimics a home environment.


Programming will include family treatment and enhancing personal life skills. The final 60 days of a youth’s treatment will include 30 days of preparation and the final 30 days of skills application. The YRTC team will continue to collaborate with the Department of Labor and Vocational Rehabilitation to offer opportunities to youth to obtain needed job certifications to facilitate successful re-entry. The YRTC-Geneva program will follow the same Phase model offered at the Kearney campus with an emphasis on life skills, increased responsibilities, community involvement and independent living. Some female youth will transition to YRTC-Geneva starting in January 2020.


On August 19, 2019 female youth from YRTC-Geneva were relocated to the YRTC-Kearney after conditions on the Geneva campus were deemed insufficient. Vandalism incidents at the cottage in early August, coupled with existing programming and staffing issues created a critical situation. The move to Kearney was needed to ensure the safety and well-being of the youth.


Relocating these youth to Kearney provided an opportunity for DHHS to offer more consistent programming to the female youth as the Department assessed their needs for specific programming and clinical supports. It also allowed the Department of Administrative Services to repair damage and make upgrades to the LaFlesche Cottage on the Geneva campus to better serve the program’s needs. Current photos of LaFlesche Cottage can be found here –

“Moving forward and establishing the YRTC System is the first step to reforming Nebraska’s youth services. The three-pronged approach addresses immediate needs while ensuring the safety and well-being of the youth we serve. It also allows for long-range strategic planning done in collaboration with key stakeholders,” said Smith.

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