Program for troubled youth saving taxpayer dollars

LEBANON, PA. (WHTM) – An investment to rehabilitate troubled youth in Lebanon County is paying off.

Over the past four years, the county invested $4 million to expand at-home and community-based services that help troubled kids locally and after school, instead of using sleepaway services.

This past fiscal year, it saved the county $400,000, and officials say it better helps 10- to 21-year-olds who have misdemeanors or felonies.

“We’ve been able to provide community protection, treatment to the juveniles but still be fiscally responsible at the same time,” said Sue Christner, deputy director of the county’s probation services juvenile unit.

“We’ve had some up and down fiscal years since 2012 where we were doing a lot of work on the front end to eventually save money on the back end,” she said. “Now, we’re starting to see the fruits of that labor.”

Christner said residential sleepaway services cost $140 to $550 a day for each child. The new community-based treatment costs $40 to $85 a day per child.

“It’s always good news to hear a program has come in under budget,” Lebanon County Chief Clerk Jamie Wolgemuth said. “$400,000 is a lot of money. It’s really nice to see the programs that have been implemented have worked.”

“[The new program] has resulted in a savings of county dollars, which saves the taxpayers money,” Wolgemuth said. “It has resulted in better outcomes for the juveniles that were in the programs and, ultimately, a safer community with those better outcomes.”

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