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Rifle’s Emily Griffith Center will offer a second chance to boys

Carrie Click

Some have been abused. Others have been neglected. Most have emotional and behavioral problems. All are looking for a second chance – and at the Emily Griffith Center at Western Academy in Rifle, they’ll get it.

A new 28-bed education and treatment facility for boys ages 12-18 is preparing for opening day on Sept. 3.

Situated at 1252 County Road 294, east of Clagett Memorial Hospital on five acres, the Emily Griffith Center will accept boys primarily from Garfield County.

It occupies the former Western Academy facility, a youth treatment center that Glenwood Springs resident Bill Evans originated in 1986 and ran until 1998. Youth Track of Denver ran the facility until early this year.

Evans and Howard Shiffman, CEO of Emily Griffith, agreed the venue would be an ideal location for the Colorado-based nonprofit.

Rifle’s Emily Griffith program director Susan Garcia said Evans will continue as the center’s landlord.

“We wouldn’t have been able to open on our due date if it wasn’t for Bill,” she said. “He has been extremely instrumental with our remodel and getting the center ready.”

Evans couldn’t be more pleased with his new tenants.

“They were my first call and my first choice,” he said. “Emily Griffith has an impeccable reputation.”

Garcia said the new center will, in many ways, resemble Western Academy, where she worked with Evans from 1991-98. Like Western Academy, client referrals will primarily come from the Garfield County Department of Human Services and regional child welfare agencies.

“LIke Emily Griffith, (Western Academy) clients had very similar issues,” said Garcia. “Many of them had significant problems with their families, and were often moved from household to household. Sometimes they had minor infractions with the law.”

Garcia stresses that although Emily Griffith clients do come from troubled homes, they are provided a safe and secure living and learning environment that encourages healthy lifestyle changes. The center is also a fully accredited school, so clients may pursue their education and even graduate from the facility.

“Our philosophy really focuses on experiential therapies,” she said. “That’s why we’ll working with the boys hands-on, using our Griffith Adventure Program model, which includes our ropes course, climbing wall, equestrian program and wilderness expeditions.”

The first Emily Griffith Center originated in Denver in 1923 with educator Emily Griffith. Today, the nonprofit runs treatment and education centers in Colorado Springs, Larkspur and, in a matter of days, Rifle.

Reportedly, success rates are high for the center’s clients.

“Eighty percent successfully complete the Emily Griffith Center program and (are) able to return home or to a less restrictive setting,” said Beth Miller, Emily Griffith chief operating officer. “In a two-year follow up study, 95 percent of these children have continued to be successful in their aftercare setting, as measured by school participation, home life, and avoidance of police contact.”

Although there has been an unfounded rumor that Rifle’s Emily Griffith Center might be accepting sex offenders, Garcia wanted to assure the public that is not the case.

“We are not accepting any sex offenders at this facility,” she said. “Our center in Larkspur does accept clients with those types of behavioral issues, but that is not the case here.”

Garcia is also quick to point out that the Rifle center is not a lock-down facility.

“The center is divided into three units,” she said. “One area is for boys 12-14 and a second is for 15- to 18-year-olds. We will also have a staff secure unit called TLC, meaning Treatment, Learning and Containment, for intake, assessment and crisis intervention.”

Overall, Garcia is looking forward to working with the boys, and with the local community.

“We welcome community involvement,” she said, “and we’re looking forward to continued positive relationships with all our neighbors.”


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