Last updated: August 25. 2013 1:06AM - 101 Views

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VAN WERT — The Starr Commonwealth campus in Van Wert will stop all operations by the end of June, after nearly 60 years serving children with behavioral and emotional issues.

Board member Jon Rhoades said he hopes the closure is temporary, but no plan is in place.

“This has been a challenge for us for several years,” he said. “We’ve had a very difficult time getting placements.”

A move from residential to community-based treatment, combined with a tough economy, drove numbers down, he said.

“One of the factors is the economy, state budgets and people’s assets have taken a hit,” he said.

“This is not a decision being made lightly,” said Martin L. Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of Starr Commonwealth. “Because of economic conditions in Ohio and the country, the Van Wert campus has experienced ongoing difficulties maintaining full enrollment in programs.”

Rhoades said the Van Wert campus has lost millions of dollars over the years.

“We just couldn’t continue to do that,” he said.

The state is promoting strategies to reduce the number of children placed in residential facilities, thereby reducing governmental costs of placement. As an example, from 2001 to 2009 there was a 42 percent reduction in the number of students statewide placed in residential care. That impacted the number of children referred into Starr’s Van Wert program.

Starr officials said they haven’t given up on the Van Wert location.

“As the economy improves, opportunities will be sought to again offer services in Van Wert,” according to a news release from the company. “Leading up to this difficult decision, Starr Commonwealth’s Executive Management Team and Board of Trustees eagerly and aggressively researched every available option to increase enrollment in order to mitigate losses at the Van Wert campus.”

The company will maintain the campus while the board looks for other ways to serve youth. Starr will work with the current 35 employees to find them work, some within the organization, which has campuses in Detroit, Albion and Battle Creek, Mich., as well as Columbus.

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