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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Youth regional treatment center on D-Q University land in the works

The Indian Health Service (IHS) plans to build a Youth Regional Treatment Center (YRTC) on 12 of 640 acres of D-Q University land. The D-Q University Board of Trustees has agreed to transfer the land back to the federal government, but it hasn’t been officially passed over yet.

“The YRTC would be a center for chemical dependence treatment for Alaskan Natives and American Indians ages 12 to 17,” said California YRTC planner Steven Zerebecki. “The IHS operates 11 other facilities similar to this across the country.”

According to the IHS, there is a congressional mandate for YRTCs.

“IHS must construct, appropriately staff and operate a youth regional treatment center in each of the 12 IHS geographic service areas,” the IHS website stated. “Two must be built in California and seven IHS areas have YRTCs, but none in California.”

Coined as the “California YRTC Project,” the IHS is currently planning to build two new YRTCs in California, with one in the north and one in the south.

As of now, IHS operates five YRTCs and the Tribes operate six of them.

“The facilities provide treatment for chemical dependence, combining mental health care, medical care and traditional healing techniques,” Zerebecki said.

IHS is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funded through direct appropriation. Zerebecki said the facility would bring around 70 jobs to the area, with the annual budget being $4.5 million and the development budget being about $20 million.

The most recent community meeting in regard to the YRTC was on Dec. 19, 2011.

“The purpose of the meeting was to continue dialogue with the community,” Zerebecki said. “About 50 individuals showed up and we did an informal Q&A with various experts from the IHS.”

According to Zerebecki, the discussion in the most recent meeting focused on environmental issues because there have been instances of seasonal flooding.

“There were some members concerned about building a facility in the proposed site,” he said. “A lot of questions about what our mitigation plans are for potential flooding.”

Zerebecki said most of the feedback they’ve received from the community and those around Yolo County and D-Q University is in support of the project.

IDRS, Inc., an Indian organization based in Sacramento, stated its support in its blog.

“It is great to hear that the property that housed D-Q University will soon be back in service,” the blog stated. “This time as a treatment center for Native youth. Let’s hope that educational classes will also return to the only Indian College in California.”

According to Zerebecki, the facility will have a full mental health care treatment service as well as occupation therapy and occupation training. In addition, there will be a full-time school where the youth can attend classes and potentially work toward a GED, graduation or certification in some vocational area.

“Our development timeline is about 18 to 24 months,” Zerebecki said. “There are a number of things that can change a development schedule that come up along the way; a number of milestones are needed to be achieved to move to the next step.”

Currently, the milestone IHS plans to achieve is purchasing 12 acres of D-Q University land. Zerebecki said the Board of Trustees has agreed to revert the 12 acres back to the government specifically for the purpose of building the facility.

“One of the reasons we’re looking at the 12 acres is it has a very rich history and it’s been in use for American Indian purpose for years now,” Zerebecki said. “We think it’s an appropriate community to build this facility.”

If IHS is not able to acquire the land, there are other options on hand. As its policy and practice when building new facilities, it is required to evaluate at least four sites. These sites are then ranked, with D-Q University ranked as the top site in Northern California.

According to Zerebecki, the facility’s proximity to UC Davis is also advantageous since the school has a psychiatric program and IHS plans to hire many health care providers, including mental health care providers, meaning there would be more jobs created in the community.

“This is really a collaborative process with the community because that would mean the facility would be just that much more effective and successful,” Zerebecki said. “We are very optimistic about this site in Yolo County.”

CLAIRE TAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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